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Mindspeed gets China Mobile femto gig

Must rig out support for political legacy, though

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Mindspeed, sugar daddy to the UK-based Picochip, will be setting up a development lab with China Mobile to deploy cells using TD-LTE tech, but also supporting TD-SCDMA – as politics, rather than technology, demands.

The deal will immediately put small cells from Mindspeed into the city of Suzhou, providing both 3G (TD-SCDMA) and 4G (TD-LTE) for China Mobile. But Mindspeed also gets to set up a "development lab" with the China Mobile Communications Corporation, the government-run body which owns a controlling interest in the world's largest mobile operator.

This explains why the release from Mindspeed mentions TD-SCDMA eight times and TD-LTE only twice, as TD-SCDMA is the government-sponsored, domestically developed standard which was supposed to prove that China was a market big enough to ignore international standards.

Turns out that even China can't go it alone, and China Mobile's rivals are touting iPhones with 4G connectivity while it's left dropping regular hints about a forthcoming deal with Apple which we all know won't materialise until 4G is properly deployed.

We're told that lack of faith in TD-SCDMA has cost more than one executive at China Mobile his job, but given 12 senior managers have "stepped down" over the last three years – mainly over allegations of corruption – it's hard to keep track. The last CEO, Wang Jianzhou, stepped down "for reasons of age" last year. He was 63, while his replacement, Xi Guohua, is a comparatively youthful 60.

So TD-SCDMA has to be deployed, even though no one wants it. China Mobile itself has been busy showing Sina Tech how its TD-LTE network already deployed in Guangzhou can achieve speeds topping 112Mb/sec which is, frankly, fast enough to arouse suspicions. That speed was apparently achieved on a bus, using Wi-Fi for local connectivity and TD-LTE for the backhaul, but getting a genuine speed of 112Mb/sec on Wi-Fi is no mean feat, and from a mobile handset is pretty much unprecedented.

Once they started moving, Sina Tech sustained speeds around 40Mb/sec (with thanks to Tech in Asia for the translation), which meshes with our own tests of UK Broadband's TD-LTE network in London, with similar levels of loading (eg, almost none), though our tests were on a laptop rather than a mobile phone.

TD-LTE is much more flexible than the Frequency Division (FD) equivalent, as Time Divisions allow asynchronous connections instead of allocating the same bandwidth to sending and receiving, not to mention that TD-LTE can be slotted into radio bands without requiring paired spectrum. TD-LTE is being deployed globally, and could well prove the more popular standard over time.

This is in contrast to TD-SCDMA, which serves only a political purpose and is unlikely to be remembered, let alone widely used. The UK might not have 4G, thanks to belligerent network operators and an underpowered regulator, but at least we're not building out a 3G network based on an already redundant technology. ®

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