China to issue 4G licenses within around one year

China is already holding large-scale trials using LTE TDD technology

China plans to issue 4G licenses for LTE TDD networks within around one year, according to a top government official, speeding up the original timetable for deployment of the high-speed networks in the country.

Miao Wei, the head of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, made the statement in an interview with Chinese state press. He had originally said in March that the government would wait anothertwo or three years before issuing the 4G licenses, stating that there was a need to build more 4G base stations and to give time to vendors to develop handsets for the new networks.

Currently, China has one billion mobile phone subscribers, but most users are still on slower 2.5G networks. The nation's 3G networks, however, are steadily gaining more users as smartphone adoption grows in the country.

Starting in 2011, China began holding trials in different cities using the 4G LTE TDD (Long-Term Evolution Time-Division Duplex) technology, which is better known as TD-LTE in the country.

In August, Miao said the 4G trials were reaching a "breakthrough in progress". These included improvements made in the network equipment technology, mobile phones and processors built for networks.

"These achievements have strengthened our confidence in TD-LTE's development, and have laid a foundation for TD-LTE's development," according to a statement posted by the ministry. Miao also stressed a need to speed up the 4G technology's development, with the ministry pledging more support to its deployment.

China has been the major backer of LTE TDD, one of two LTE variants, the other being LTE FDD (Frequency Division Duplex), which is being used by many carriers outside China to offer their 4G services.

China's largest mobile carrier, China Mobile, is expected to lead the way in establishing LTE TDD commercial networks in the country. At the same time, companies including ZTE and MediaTek have been developing mobile phones to be used on the new networks.

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