GSM Association Hopes To Integrate TD-SCDMA
By Carlo Longino, Tue Jun 15 15:00:00 GMT 2004

The trade body of GSM operators says it will coordinate development of China's home-grown 3G standard with WCDMA to allow interoperability and international roaming.

China is developing the third 3G standard in order to circumvent licensing and royalty payments to Western companies, even though it could be several years before TD-SCDMA is ready for a commercial roll-out. GSM and WCDMA operators were understandably concerned that China's selection of the technology would effectively close it off to their roaming customers and make interoperability very difficult, but today's announcement should ease some of those concerns.

Both WCDMA and TD-SCDMA can be deployed over GSM core networks, and the move to standardize TD-SCDMA within the 3GPP should help bridge the gap between the two standards. While the two 3G standards remain fundamentally different, the fact that they're both laid on top of GSM should make make for simpler roaming -- something Western carriers are keen to push as China's role on the world stage grows and it becomes an even bigger travel destination.

But China and its TD-SCDMA companies also smell an advantage here: the more closely they can integrate the standard with existing technologies like GSM and WCDMA, the more opportunity they'll have to sell TD-SCDMA products outside the country. While it's still early days, and it still remains to be seen if TD-SCDMA is a viable candidate, it could be an attractive proposition, particularly in developing markets, if it's available at a significantly lower price than WCDMA or CDMA2000 gear. But it must be compatible and easily integrated with current networks to stand a chance anywhere other than where its use will be required by the government.

One analyst estimates there will be 118 million 3G data users in China by 2008, with 3G networks up and running there next year. There are currently about 100 million users of WCDMA and CDMA2000 networks around the world.