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5,000 city users to put 4G services to the test
Aggregated Source: Shanghai Daily: Business

Long-awaited 4G services, which provide mobile users with Internet access 20 to 50 times faster than 3G network, make their debut in Shanghai next month when China Mobile begins large-scale trials, the carrier said yesterday.

The trial in the world's biggest mobile phone market indicates that the country is ready to adopt the most advanced mobile technology for more than a billion handset users, and create a billion-dollar market for telecommunications equipment and handsets.

From June 1, China Mobile's Shanghai branch will invite 5,000 users to test the latest 4G products including mobile phones and data cards based on TD-LTE (time division-long term evolution) technology, a domestic 4G technology.

Shanghai Mobile has built 1,000 base stations - 700 outdoors and 300 indoors - to cover the Inner Ring region. It will cover the whole city by the end of this year, said Xu Da, Shanghai Mobile's general manager.

"Local consumers can have more advanced and rich Internet experiences with coming 4G besides current 3G and Wi-Fi services," Xu said.

The 4G data cards and handsets provide real download speeds from 10 to 60 megabits per second, compared to about one megabit on current 3G network, according to China Mobile's demo in Xujiahui area yesterday, World Telecommunications Day.

Wei Zhong, an editor of an information technology website, became the first invited 4G user in Shanghai.

"I am glad to try the latest technology," said Wei, who has several handsets from different carriers. "The high-speed will definitely improve my work efficiency."

Handsets using TD-LTE are limited because the system is almost solely used in China. Handsets and data cards are made by Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell and Datang Mobile.

The most popular smartphones, like Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy 4, don't support TD-LTE. But Samsung's models will support China's 4G technology later, Shanghai Mobile said.

Apple is in talks with China Mobile and it's expected that its latest iPhone will support China Mobile's 4G network later this year or in 2014, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley and iSuppli.

More than 44 LTE 4G networks operate in 28 countries and China Mobile's 4G network will be the first on the China's mainland.

China Mobile, which now has more than 720 million users, will boost capital spending by 50 percent this year on building 4G networks.

Its capital spending may rise to 190.2 billion yuan (US$30.2 billion) this year, up 49 percent year on year, it said.

After building a trial 4G network in 15 cities in 2012, China Mobile said recently that it would expand the 4G network to 100 cities this year with 200,000 base stations, covering 500 million people.

"It's a nice opportunity for China Mobile to commercialize and promote 4G technology," Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile, said.

China Unicom and China Telecom have been eating into China Mobile's market share. Since 3G licenses were issued in 2009, China Mobile has seen its market advantages chipped away because it adopts the home-developed TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronous code division multiple access) network that is less commercially mature compared with the other two Western standards adopted by China Telecom and China Unicom.

China Mobile's total user base of 726 million is far ahead of China Unicom (251 million subscribers) and China Telecom (168 million). But the numbers for 3G users alone are closer with Mobile on 115 million, Unicom's 88 million and Telecom's 78 million.

The how, what and when of the new technology

4G is the fourth generation of mobile phone mobile communication technology standards. It provides users with high-speed Internet access on devices such as phones, data cards and MiFi routes, a device transferring signals to Wi-Fi for devices including iPhones, iPads and laptops.

A first batch of 5,000 invited users will try 4G services starting in June. The public are expected to be able to apply for services later, probably from August.

At present, users have to change their phones to enjoy 4G services with TD-LTE technology. Currently, the variety of models is limited.

How much:
Each invited user will have 15 gigabytes of Internet traffic every month. The price for 4G services hasn't been decided but the average bandwidth cost must be lower than that of 3G, according to Shanghai Mobile.

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Copyright Shanghai Daily: Business