China Takes The Tortoise Route For 3G
By Mike Masnick, Wed Mar 30 01:45:00 GMT 2005

While other Asian nations are already moving forward with post-3G technologies, China still won't hand out its 3G licenses. Is this a smart strategy to avoid early adopter problems or will it harm mobile data usage in China?

South Korea and Japan aren't just early adopters of next generation mobile technologies -- they're pushing forward to define future generations of the technology. However, at the same time, neighboring China is continuing its lethargic pace towards 3G. While some Chinese telcos have been clamoring for licenses, the Chinese government has made it clear that it has no interest in rushing through the process and won't award the licenses until it's ready.

A big part of the problem may be the continued problems with the home grown TD-SCDMA standard. That's resulted in speculation that China will allow some mobile operators to use competing technologies -- which would be a relief to those operators, some of whom have been testing competing 3G technology for years.

Of course, another view is that, no matter what the real reasons are for the government's delay in issuing licenses, Chinese mobile operators will be able to take advantage of the delay. For the time being, demand for existing mobile service continues to grow rapidly, so there's no need to push higher end service just yet. Capacity issues may push operators to look for more spectrum eventually, but for the time being it appears they're handling things adequately. However, while other mobile operators around the world struggle with figuring out ways to make 3G pay, Chinese operators have the ability to sit back and watch. If they're taking notes, they should be able to avoid many of the bigger mistakes that have been made and come out with solutions that don't just meet the needs of subscribers, but also make good business sense.