China Mobile disclosed that it will invest $6.7 billion in rolling out TD-LTE this year, potentially setting up the operator to finally get an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone that will work on its network.
The operator expects to end 2013 with more than 200,000 TD-LTE base stations in 13 cities, up from the 20,000 base stations it had deployed by the end of last year.
The move will have significant ramifications outside of China, helping give confidence to makers of network gear and devices that there will be a viable TD-LTE ecosystem in the years to come. "If you're Ericsson, Huawei, Softbank or Apple, it's sending a clear statement that they believe this technology will work and they're putting their money where their mouth is," said analyst Tucker Grinnan, who was quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
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The $7 billion TD-LTE investment is part of a much larger $30 billion capex budget outlined by China Mobile for 2013. The operator spent only $19.7 billion on capex in 2012.
China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua also urged China's government to issue licenses that would enable LTE networks to launch by year's end, saying it would be "appropriate" to do so. Chinese officials have indicated the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will finally be ready to finally issue the licenses sometime this year. Though operators have been rolling out "trial" TD-LTE networks, none are officially licensed for commercial use.
China Mobile CEO Li Yue also said there has been "no progress" on negotiations between the operator and Apple to create an iPhone compatible with China Mobile's existing TD-SCDMA 3G netwo