China 4G TD-LTE trials expected to last 18 months

The TD-LTE technology will allow mobile phone users to exchange data at faster rates

China has begun large-scale trials of fourth-generation (4G) mobile technology known as TD-LTE, with the tests expected to last 18 months, according to the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

China will complete the research and development of commercial equipment for TD-LTE technology in 2012, said Zhang Feng, the director of the telecommunications development department for the ministry, according to statements made on Thursday.

The TD-LTE technology (Time-Division Long-Term Evolution) would allow mobile phone users in China to exchange data at faster speeds than the country's current third-generation 3G networks.

The trials, which are being organized by the ministry, are meant to see how the TD-LTE technology can be used commercially. The tests will be held in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Xiamen.

China Mobile, the country's largest carrier with 579 million subscribers, is overseeing the construction of the networks. Companies like Huawei, Nokia-Siemens Networks and ZTE, which specialize in building telecommunications equipment, will also participate in the trials.

China has been the major supporter of TD-LTE, just one of two standards in use for fourth-generation network technology. The other is FDD-LTE (Frequency Division Duplex), which is being adopted by many overseas telecom operators.

But gradually TD-LTE technology has been gaining more attention from telecom operators across Asia, and even globally, said CW Cheung, a consulting director with analyst firm Ovum. One reasons is because TD-LTE technology has reportedly higher spectral efficiency compared to FDD-LTE, meaning lower costs, he said. The technology is also easier to deploy, he added.

China's decision to use the technology has pushed TD-LTE further into the spotlight, Cheung said.

Huawei has reported winning three contracts to build TD-LTE networks in markets outside of China. Nokia-Siemens also says it plans on deploying TD-LTE commercial networks in 2011.

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