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Chinese operators to build hybrid 3G networks

'Not a viable model for network evolution'

Chinese telecommunication operators will likely build 3G (third-generation) mobile networks that combine one of the main 3G technologies with China's homegrown standard, a market research firm said yesterday, warning against the move.

"Full hybrid network establishment is not a viable model for network evolution," Norson (Hong Kong) Information Technology, said in a research note. "The most efficient way for operators to build nationwide 3G networks will be to choose one dominant standard and relegate any other standards to supporting roles."

Backed by the Chinese government, Chinese companies have invested heavily in recent years to develop TD-SCDMA (time division synchronous code division multiple access) as an alternative to the two 3G technologies widely deployed by operators around the world: W-CDMA (wideband CDMA) and CDMA2000 EV-DO (evolution data optimised).

TD-SCDMA has been trumpeted as a sign of China's growing technological prowess, despite reports of lacklustre performance during trials conducted in several Chinese cities.

The decision by China's MII (Ministry of Information Industry) to not issue 3G licences in recent years has given TD-SCDMA's backers time to further improve the technology. However, Chinese efforts to see TD-SCDMA deployed as the main 3G technology in China are not likely to be realised, the research note said.

"TD-SCDMA is far less mature than either W-CDMA or CDMA2000 in both technological development and commercial application," Norson said. "While WCDMA and CDMA2000 have been adopted on a commercial scale by operators across the world, the launch of TD-SCDMA networks has been delayed repeatedly, allowing its rivals to become even more entrenched."

In addition, Chinese operators now aspire to expand internationally, which makes choosing W-CDMA or CDMA2000 a more practical choice for their domestic 3G networks, it said.

To ensure that TD-SCDMA is deployed, Norson said the government will likely require operators to deploy TD-SCDMA alongside either W-CDMA or CDMA2000 EV-DO networks. That means operators would need dual-mode handsets capable of supporting two 3G networks, it said, noting that such handsets do not currently exist and would not necessarily be easy to produce.

"Vendors do not expect to offer W-CDMA/TD-SCDMA and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications)/W-CDMA/TD-SCDMA chips until the second half of 2007," Norson said, referring to the chipsets used in mobile phones.


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