25 January 2020

POLICY WATCH: China aims for global 4G leadership

In a bid to become a global leader in wireless telecommunications, China is stepping up efforts to deploy and promote fourth-generation mobile technology.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the nation’s top economic policymaker, issued a circular on Oct. 8 pledging support for the development of the country’s 4G mobile industry, particularly the homegrown Time Division-Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) standard.

The commission identified eight 4G areas where development focus should be directed: mobile smart terminal application system, wearable technology and equipment for mobile internet, public service platform for mobile internet and smart terminals, research and development, industrialization environment for mobile smart terminals, high-speed broadband wireless access equipment, mobile internet big data technologies, and industrial applications based on the TD-LTE standard.

It promised to provide financial support to enterprises that will undertake special projects in these fields, according to the circular posted on the NDRC website.

The government initiative is part of China’s ambition to break the leadership of the United States and Europe in 4G technology. Its desire to be at the forefront of the global 4G trend may be traced to the setbacks it suffered in pushing the domestically developed Time Division-Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA) as a 3G standard years ago.

As the 4G era approaches, China is wasting no time in promoting TD-LTE, a standard it has been developing since 2007. Learning from the weak industry support for its 3G standard, it is now holding discussions with suppliers such as chipmaker Qualcomm, telecom equipment makers like Nokia and Ericsson, and mobile operators like Vodafone to encourage them to adopt the Chinese technology via an industry group called Global TD-LTE Initiatives.

TD-LTE can support data transmission speed of more than 100 megabits per second, faster than existing 3G technology by more than 10 times. 

China’s efforts to promote the 4G standard is bearing fruit. Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable company, has included TD-LTE technology in its latest iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c series, bringing the Chinese technology to global spotlight.

The government is likely to issue licenses for carriers to operate their 4G networks later this year. But this early, several overseas operators have started deploying the TD-LTE standard including Japan’s Softbank, US’ Sprint and Australia’s Optus. That indicates a successful global rollout of the Chinese technology.

Meanwhile, the central government has come up with an ambitious plan to develop the country’s 4G industry. This includes device and equipment manufacturing, application services and platform environment building across such sectors as public transport, aviation and medical services.

Both upstream and downstream sectors of the industrial chain would be tapped, boosting the development of other IT industrial sectors such as mobile internet and internet of things.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]



EJ Insight writer