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China Mobile's Beijing branch jumps on 4G technology wave

2013-11-06 11:16 China Daily Web Editor: qindexing
Customers try out 4G-enabled smartphones in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. Beijing will join the ranks of cities that have access to the latest mobile network technology on Wednesday.[China Daily]

Customers try out 4G-enabled smartphones in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. Beijing will join the ranks of cities that have access to the latest mobile network technology on Wednesday.[China Daily]

Carrier to begin sales of newest network-enabled smartphones

Beijing has become the latest Chinese city to join the wave of tests for fourth generation, or 4G, mobile networks, despite the fact that the government has yet to issue 4G licenses to telecom carriers.

On Tuesday, China Mobile Ltd's Beijing branch said it would start sales of 4G smartphones on Wednesday. The first batch of 4G handsets includes two models - Sony Corp's M35T and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's Galaxy Note 2.

Customers do not need to change their phone numbers but just have to get a new SIM card for their 4G handsets, according to a statement from China Mobile. Fourth-generation wireless networks achieve data download speeds of up to 80 megabits per second, four times faster than 3G networks.

However, the coverage of 4G networks in Beijing is limited, said Gao Shu, a spokeswoman for China Mobile's Beijing branch. Only people in areas inside the capital's Third Ring Road will be able to access the network.

"Our 4G smartphones are aimed at high-end, white-collar workers in Beijing," Gao said.

Before Beijing, a handful of affluent Chinese cities, including Guangzhou and Hangzhou, have started offering 4G services on a trial basis.

China Mobile - the only operator in the country currently testing 4G networks - has adopted the domestic Time Division-Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) 4G technology.

The number of applicants for 4G services is expected to surpass 100,000 in major cities, according to a China Mobile official, who asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, the lack of mature 4G smartphones has long been seen as a major obstacle for the expansion of China Mobile's 4G business. But the situation has improved in recent months. According to a report from Bank of China International Securities, as of Sept 11, smartphone models received the permission from Chinese authorities to run on 4G networks. The new smartphones are being made by domestic and international companies, including Samsung, Sony, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp, the report said.

"The planned 4G commercial rollout is very good news for China Mobile, as well as for smartphone companies and mobile Internet companies," said Wang Jun, an analyst with Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.

China Mobile's net profit dropped 9 percent in the third quarter partly due to the increasing challenges posed by mobile Internet applications such as Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat.

"The 4G business can help the carrier to attract more high-end users from rivals," Wang said.

Apple Inc has also said that its latest iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C handsets may support TD-LTE technology.

James Yan, an analyst with IDC China, pointed out that the timing for launching 4G services in China is right.

"The environment could not be better. Customers favor smartphones, carriers have the motivation to do 4G services, and distributors know how to sell 4G products to people," Yan said.

The launch of 4G services in China will definitely be a new driver for the growth of the nation's smartphone market, he added.

"4G will be an important factor to make people buy new phones," Yan said.

Ryan Reith, program director at IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said that China has become one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets in the world, accounting for more than one-third of total shipments in the third quarter of the year.

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