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3G to hit 12 million Chinese by 2012

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Analysts EJL Wireless Research estimate that more than 12 million Chinese will be using TD-SCDMA handsets by 2012, though they also claim that Huawei won't be providing much of the infrastructure to support them.

TD-SCDMA is a variant of CDMA designed to avoid paying patent fees to non-Chinese companies, and is the mandated 3G standard for China. The Chinese government promised to have its 3G network up and running in time for the Olympics, and to some extent has achieved that despite not formally awarding licences in time.

Anyone can manufacture TD-SCDMA handsets, and China is hoping the standard will spread beyond its borders; but according to EJL only 13 per cent of handset orders have been placed with non-Chinese suppliers, and no one outside China is making data cards complying with the standard.

More surprising is EJL's rundown of the infrastructure suppliers for the burgeoning 3G networks telecoms giant, and one-time suitor of 3Com, Huawei has apparently won less than one per cent of the contracts so far awarded.

Grabbing 12 million subscribers in the next four years might seem like a lot, but in a country with a mobile-phone-touting population of around half a billion it's really very conservative. Certainly the Chinese government is hoping that mass production of TD-SCDMA handsets will bring the prices down to being competitive with other 3G technologies, and it'll be hoping that a lot more than 12 million are in use by 2012. ®

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