China's TD-LTE spreads across globe

Asian giant's homegrown Long Term Evolution standard has broken out of homebase and adopted in other markets, says industry watcher, attributing technology's success to government's commitment and push for ecosystem.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--The Chinese government's support for developing a TD-LTE (Time-Division Long-Term Evolution) ecosystem has allowed the technology to break out of its homebase to be adopted in global markets, notes industry watcher. However, not all country-developed technology will be able to enjoy such success.

Stephen Hire, director of marketing at testing and measurement company, Aeroflex Asia, said TD-LTE is "breaking out" into the wider world with about 26 networks across the globe already actively trialing the technology. He added that he expects "almost half" of the world's population to be exposed to TD-LTE as the platform continues to develop.

Speaking at the next-generation mobile broadband session here Wednesday at CommunicAsia, Hire said the Chinese government has applied lessons learned from its 3G standard Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA) to how it proceeded to develop and promote TD-LTE. He noted that TD-SCMA was more of a Chinese standard for its own market, while the government involved both local and foreign companies in the development of TD-LTE.

One of the weakness of TD-SCDMA was that many saw it as too far separated from the core 3G technology, so there was very little international participation, added Hire. In contrast, TD-LTE is part of the global core LTE community, he noted.

With limited participation, economies of scale around TD-SCDMA could not be achieved, he said. On the other hand, it was easier for manufacturers to develop for TD-LTE over the common chipset, he explained, adding that this reduced technical hurdles and lowered the barriers of entry for manufacturers.

The Chinese government's strong commitment to promote TD-LTE also played a part in providing incentives for foreign companies to invest in the technology, he added. For instance, he noted that it channeled funds toward supporting government-sponsored organizations, such as the TD Industrial Alliance, to develop the TD-LTE ecosystem.

While China has been successful in promoting a homebrewed standard, Hire noted that it is unlikely a similar scenario will be repeated elsewhere around the world. For one thing, not many countries have as big a domestic market as China does to grow a new standard, he said.

Despite the momentum built around TD-LTE, he acknowledged that the technology is still a small part in the LTE ecosystem. That said, he pointed out that there are still many opportunities to tap the technology such as in India, where part of the wireless spectrum was awarded to TD-LTE players.

However, Hire noted that TD-SCDMA is here to stay as the Chinese government previously stated that large scale TD-LTE networks will only roll out in 2014.

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