China issues 4G network licences to 3 companies

Written by Reuters | Beijing | Updated: Dec 5 2013, 08:37am hrs
China has awarded 4G licences to China Mobile, China Unicom Hong Kong and China Telecom Corp in a widely expected move that will benefit industry players from telecom equipment makers to Apple.

The ministry of industry and information technology has issued licences for the TD-LTE standard to Chinas three carriers, according to the ministrys website on Wednesday.

The announcement only mentions licenses for the TD-LTE standard, not the FDD-LTE standard which is more widely adopted globally. The licences will mostly benefit China Mobile, whose 4G network is heavily based on TD-LTE.

The ministry also awarded China Mobile a licence to operate fixed-line broadband services, according to the company. Previously, only China Unicom and China Telecom were able to offer fixed-line broadband.

China Mobile, the countrys largest mobile carrier by subscribers, has trailed behind its smaller rivals in attracting users to its home-grown 3G standard due to its poorer network service. It also does not have a distribution deal for Apples iconic iPhone.

China Mobiles 3G subscribers accounted for just 23% of its total subscribers as of the end of October, compared with 42 and 54% for China Unicom and China Telecom, respectively.

China is only expected to license FDD-LTE networks China Unicom and China Telecoms favoured standard - sometime next year.

The rollout of commercial 4G is also expected to benefit equipment makers Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp as well as Chinese Internet firms.