China's largest mobile phone network operator will have a 3G (third generation mobile telecommunications) network based on TD-SCDMA technology up and running in eight cities by the end of the year, in preparation for testing ahead of the Summer Olympic Games, slated to start next August in Beijing, industry leaders say.
Network equipment maker ZTE has already started delivering systems to service provider China Mobile Communications, a ZTE manager said at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress, held in Macau last week.
Earlier this year, the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), had said it did not expect TD-SCDMA (time division synchronous code division multiple access) to be part of the technology offerings on hand at the Games because it wasn't ready yet. But the group has changed its tune.
News reporters, athletes and attendees will all be able to take advantage of 3G telecommunications at the Olympics, said Susan Li, deputy division chief in the technology department's telecommunication division at BOCOG.
"This is no easy task," she said, "considering the Olympic Games are spread through 31 venues, including several outside of Beijing."
BOCOG had already partnered with China Mobile to provide GSM (global system for mobile communications) and WLAN (wireless-LAN) services at Olympic buildings and venues. But now China Mobile has committed to providing 3G services at the Games, she said.
"We are very happy with the development of TD-SCDMA and that it will be showcased at the Olympic Games," Li said.
TD-SCDMA has been a question mark for a while. The main knock against the 3G standard is that it's a latecomer, rushed to market by government officials in China and perhaps not yet ready to handle the huge crowds and spotlight of the Olympics. China could have chosen the existing 3G standard used in many other countries, WCDMA (wideband code-division multiple access), instead of spending money on its own 3G mobile standard, but the nation wants to promote home-grown technologies.
When China might issue 3G (third generation) mobile telecommunications licences remains unknown
3G licensing has been a question mark in China for a while, and executives at the show blamed the rush to finish readying TD-SCDMA technology and careful testing of the new standard for the delay.
Hua Yang, secretary-general of the TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance, said 100 pieces of networking equipment are already ready for commercial TD-SCDMA use, and that handsets armed with HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) mobile broadband internet capability will be ready in the first quarter of next year.
Aside from Beijing, 3G trials will also be held in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Shanghai, Qingdao and Baodin, he said.
Networking equipment maker Datang Mobile has been troubleshooting certain Olympic venues. In Qingdao, where all Olympic sailing events will be held, the company is trying out TD-SCDMA systems able to provide 3G service coverage over the sea, said Xu Tiezhu, general manager of Datang's Beijing R&D Centre. The company is also running tests on Shanghai's Maglev Train and in subways in some cities, to ensure 3G coverage.
"All corporations will work together to ensure the Olympic Games are a success," said Yang.
Executives at the meeting said trials will continue from now through the first half of 2008, with commercial runs of the TD-SCDMA-based 3G networks taking place in 10 cities in a run-up to the Olympic Games. The Opening ceremony of the Games takes place on August 8, 2008, and events run through August 24.