This blog pleads guilty to a mild bout of irrational exuberance over the issue of FDD-LTE trial licences on Friday.
For sure the licences give China Telecom and China Unicom the chance to build out FDD in 16 cities. But in each case only two of those cities are tier-1, and it's telling that Beijing is not one of them.
Plus, as Sina Tech notes, the wording of the MIIT announcement is revealing, repeatedly declaring that these were "LTE network integration trials," just to make sure that the trial deployments would include TD-LTE and not just the much-preferred FDD flavour.
So the allocation of the licences is signficant, but the detail suggests the MIIT is not in a hurry to open the gates to full nationwide FDD rollout. TD, the national champion, gets precedence.
FDD is a big deal for the two operators because, to quote Sina again, competing with China Mobile on TD alone is a "dead-end street."
On the other hand, Telecom and Unicom execs will no doubt be planning to take advantage of the hazy definition of just what is an FDD base station or terminal, and just how vigilantly the MIIT will police it. A report at IT Sohu suggests that many of the networks will become "underground FDD" systems - operating commercially under the cover of a TD licence. That wouldn't be the first time in China telecoms.
FDD rollout cities
China Telecom: Lanzhou, Xian, Shijiazhuang, Jinan, Chongqing, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nanning, Hefei, Nanchang, Haikou.
China Unicom: Harbin, Shenyang, Shijiazhuang, Jinan, Taiyuan, Zhengzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Fuzhou, Changsha, Guangzhou, Shenzhen.