* China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom awarded 4G
* FDD-LTE licenses for China Unicom, Telecom not yet
* China Mobile receives license to operate fixed-line
By Paul Carsten
BEIJING, Dec 4 China has awarded 4G licences to
China Mobile Ltd, China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd
and China Telecom Corp Ltd in a widely expected move
that will benefit industry players from telecom equipment makers
to Apple Inc.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has
issued licences for the TD-LTE standard to the country's three
carriers, according to the ministry's 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 license 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 country's 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 Apple's
China Mobile's 3G subscribers accounted for just 23 percent
of its total subscribers as of the end of October, compared with
42 and 54 percent for China Unicom and China Telecom,
China is only expected to license FDD-LTE networks - China
Unicom and China Telecom's favoured standard - sometime next
China Mobile issued a statement on its website acknowledging
the award of the 4G and fixed-line broadband licenses, adding
that it would "collaborate with the supply chain to make an
all-out effort to push forward the construction and operation of
4G mobile communications".
China Telecom said it would apply for a FDD-LTE licence "as
soon as practicable", according to a statement to the Hong Kong
China Unicom declined to comment.
The rollout of commercial 4G is also expected to benefit
equipment makers Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp
as well as Chinese Internet firms.
China Mobile, the country's biggest mobile carrier, is the
only one to not offer customers the iPhone as Apple did not
support its proprietary 3G technology called TD-SCDMA.
Now that China Mobile has obtained a 4G licence based on
TD-LTE, which is supported by Apple's latest iPhone models, it
paves the way for a deal between the two giants.
But negotiations have been tricky, in part because of
disagreements over details like revenue-sharing, analysts say.
The ongoing effort has fuelled Wall Street hopes that a deal
would come soon, offering the iPhone to 759 million potential
buyers who are China Mobile subscribers.
According to a Tuesday report on Fortune.com, China Mobile
has quietly begun taking pre-orders for iPhones.
China, the world's biggest smartphone market, had 1.2
billion mobile users as of the end of October, 62.3 percent of
whom are on China Mobile.
China Unicom is the second-largest with 22.6 percent of
total users, while China Telecom has 15.1 percent.