Third generation (3G) mobile technologies provide greater bandwidth and data transfer speeds than their 2G counterparts – 144 kilobits per second (kbps) to 2 megabits per second for 3G compared to anything as low as 10-19 kbps for 2G. The three technologies being considered for 3G licenses in China have all been approved as global 3G standards. Each uses a variant of code division multiple access (CDMA) technology, which was principally developed by US firm Qualcomm.
Wideband-CDMA was designed as an upgrade to GSM (global system for telecommunications) technology, the most widely used standard for 2G mobile communications. The first WCDMA network was developed in Japan by NTT DoCoMo, and WCDMA networks have since been launched in Europe, the US and elsewhere in Asia. It is expected that whoever receives China Unicom’s GSM network will also receive a WCDMA 3G license.
CDMA2000 is a natural upgrade from 2G CDMA networks found in countries such as the US and South Korea. The first CDMA2000 network was launched by SK Telecom in Korea in 2000. Adding to the confusion is that there are two separate offshoots of CDMA2000, namely CDMA20001X and CDMA20001X EV/DO. China Unicom currently runs a small CDMA network. The recipient of this network will most likely receive a 3G license for CDMA2000.
Time Division Synchronous CDMA is China’s “homegrown” 3G standard, for which it holds a share of the IP rights. The standard was developed by the Chinese Academy of Telecommunications Technology in collaboration with both Siemens and Datang. It has yet to be launched commercially and is consequently less mature than the other 3G standards. One advantage TD-SCDMA has over its rivals is in its asymmetric transfer of data, which allocates more bandwidth for downlink versus uplink. This makes it more suitable for downloading data, said Dr Wang Jing of the TD-SCDMA Forum. The technology is in commercial trials across 10 cities in China. It is said that SK Telecom is also running trial services. Most analysts believe China Mobile will receive a TD-SCDMA 3G license.