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China Mobile's 3G Coverage to Rapidly Expand

The 3G network of the world's largest mobile phone network operator will cover 70 percent of China's cities by the end of this year, the company's chairman said Wednesday.

China Mobile uses the nation's home-grown 3G mobile standard, TD-SCDMA (Time-Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), in its network and is the only company in the world rolling it out in a big way. China Potevio, a network equipment maker, signed an agreement in July to operate a test TD-SCDMA network in Italy.

The TD-SCDMA network is progressing smoothly. By the end of this year, China Mobile will roll out 88,000 TD-SCDMA base stations in 238 cities, said Wang Jianzhou, chairman and CEO of China Mobile at the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The number of base stations will nearly double to 160,000 by 2011.

He expects 3 million subscribers for TD-SCDMA by the end of this year.

The base station figure marks a strong improvement from earlier this year. In July, China Mobile reported having TD-SCDMA in only 38 cities as of July. But the subscriber projection means China Mobile will have to work hard to meet a government target for it to reach between 50 million and 80 million 3G subscribers by the end of 2010.

Wang blamed high prices for TD-SCDMA handsets for the lack of uptake in the national 3G standard.

"More low-priced TD handsets are needed," he said.

The quality of TD-SCDMA technology has improved and there are a range of handsets, high-end, mid-end and soon there will be some low-end handsets priced at around 1000 Chinese yuan (US$147), he said.

China Mobile plans to build a mobile broadband TD-LTE (Time Division-Long Term Evolution) trial system for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai next year, with 20MHz bandwidth, Wang said.

China Mobile boasted over 508 million mobile phone subscribers as of the end of September. It has set up nearly 500,000 base stations to cover 98 percent of China's population with mobile phone service. The government has aggressively promoted 3G over past few years and offered economic stimulus money to help network operators expand.

China Mobile is also working to lower electricity costs by using more efficient base stations. China Mobile aims to reduce its electricity use by 20 percent by 2012 despite expanding its network, said Wang. A 20 percent savings equals 11.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, he said.

The company currently has 2,000 solar or wind-powered base stations installed, he said, and the future roll out of such devices depends largely on price. The base stations are 50 percent more expensive than normal base stations, he said, so a lower price will allow the company to use more of them.

China Mobile will also soon start using the energy-conserving base stations at its Pakistan subsidiary, he said.

The company has also rolled out 20,000 base stations that are about 40 percent to 50 percent more power efficient than regular base stations. The devices were made by Huawei Technologies' terminal division and have been sold in countries such as Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Kevin Tao, CEO of Huawei Terminal Division, said his company has sold 1,500 solar or wind-powered base stations, which are integrated with electric networks and do not sustain themselves fully on natural power.

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