China will start commercial 4G mobile communications services on December 18, bringing the most advanced telecommunications technology to the country’s more than 1 billion mobile users.
China Mobile, the country’s No. 1 mobile operator with over 700 million users, will start 4G services on that date with a new brand He, meaning harmonious in the Chinese language.
China is expected to issue licences for 4G before the telco’s new services start.
“It will be a national event and users are allowed to apply for 4G services without changing numbers,” said a Shanghai Mobile official.
Users in Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing will be the first to enjoy commercial 4G, or fourth generation, services. Shanghai, which is still building a citywide 4G network, will launch the services later.
Though China is the world’s biggest mobile phone market with more than 1 billion users on its mainland, it lacks the 4G technology that is used in some other countries and regions including the United States, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The 4G phone will become rapidly popular on China’s mainland, thanks to the low cost of 4G phones, according to Li Yue, China Mobile’s president, who expects some 4G phones priced below 1,000 yuan (US$162) to appear in the second half of next year.
Apple Inc is also set to introduce iPhones supporting the 4G network in China, industry insiders said. The US giant and China Mobile are in negotiations over the 4G iPhone and they will launch it officially on December 18.
China Telecom and China Unicom are now Apple’s carrier partners for its smartphone on the Chinese mainland.
After months of speculation, China Mobile will finally be the first carrier to offer 4G LTE in China on Dec. 18, followed by China Unicom and China Telecom, the country’s other two major carriers. The news was confirmed by Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official mouthpiece.
The launch of 4G in China is a potential boon for Apple, because this means the company can start offering versions of the two latest iPhone models compatible with TD-LTE, the 4G standard used by China Mobile. After years of negotiations, Apple secured the final government license needed to run the iPhone on China Mobile’s proprietary wireless network in September. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile carrier with 760 million subscribers, which means that once it starts selling iPhones, Apple may enjoy a significant boost in sales and regain some of the market share it has lost to Android. From China Mobile’s perspective, offering iPhones (and other handsets) that support TD-LTE is a valuable tool to convince users to spend more time on its networks.
Xinhua says that 4G will be available first in Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing. Shanghai residents will have to wait longer for an upgrade because the city is building its own 4G network.
In addition to Apple, foreign companies that can expect to benefit from the launch of China Mobile’s 4G network include Ericsson, Nokia Solutions and Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics. China Mobile said in April that about a quarter of the 190.2 billion RMB ($30.1 billion) it will spend on its networks has been earmarked for TD-LTE technology.