Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/01/08/3g_spratly/

China throws 3G net over disputed island chain

Where there's coverage so follows ownership

By Bill Ray

Posted in Mobile, 8th January 2013 10:02 GMT

The Spratly Islands now have 3G coverage, connecting the uninhabited rocks and reefs to China's telecommunications network, much to the annoyance of Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The 750 specks of land which make up the Islands do host some soldiers, and fishing vessels will no doubt appreciate the coverage, but mostly this is about territorial claims (and oil, of course) and upstaging the Vietnamese - who've had 2G coverage across parts of the region since 2005.

China has had some 2G coverage too, but the deployment of 3G has sparked further protests from the office of the Vietnamese Prime Minister (with thanks to Tech In Asia for the translation and context) who points out, repeatedly, that Chinese fisherman working locally are breaking the law and Chinese soldiers have no right to be there, let alone calling home.

The islands are tiny, and inhospitable enough to have been claimed by both Vietnam and China for decades without either of them noticing, but that was before the value of the surrounding seas - in fish, but also oil and gas - become the critical factor in driving claims of ownership.

Chinese naval vessels have fired on Vietnamese fishing boats a few times, notably in May 2011 when ships apparently accompanying a Chinese fishing fleet drove off the Vietnamese fisherman, sparking protests across Vietnam and internationally.

China is embroiled in numerous territorial disputes, and mobile coverage is just a small playing piece in the game of international diplomacy, but at least Chinese troops stationed around Spratly can get decent date rates - unlike our lads in the Falklands, who are stuck on 2G at best. ®