Taiwan-based High Tech Computer (HTC) will launch seven smartphones that support China Mobile's next-generation mobile standard by the end of next year, executives said Monday.
HTC will launch its first phone for the China-developed 3G standard, TD-SCDMA (Time-Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), this year with six more to follow next year, Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, told reporters at a news conference. He's in Taiwan for a week-long visit to sign up new partners in the communications industry, including service providers and smartphone makers.
The HTC deal reflects China Mobile's efforts to promote the unproven TD-SCDMA standard among Taiwanese vendors. China hopes to see the standard used outside of the country, but another reason China Mobile has sought overseas partners is to gain credibility for its work on a next-generation 4G standard, TD-LTE (TD Long Term Evolution), said Bertram Lai, an analyst at CIMB-GK Securities.
In Taiwan, Wang has met with operators Far EasTone Telecommunications and Chunghwa Telecom and smartphone maker Inventec Appliances. He has also said he will meet with MediaTek, the biggest provider of mobile phone chips to China.
Demand for 3G services and smartphones in China has been tepid up until now. China Mobile has around 1 million 3G users, and has forecast 3 million next year. The figures are well behind developed nations such as Japan, which boasts the largest 3G subscriber base, but China has potential due to the sheer number of mobile phone users in the nation. China Mobile is the world's largest mobile phone service provider, with nearly 500 million subscribers.
Wang believes new services and lower prices for smartphones will attract more 3G users in China.
"If smartphones can come down in price to around 1,000 Chinese yuan (US$147), the sales volumes would increase greatly," he said. "This market is huge."
The company has already developed a new operating system for smartphones based on Google's Android OS, called Open Mobile System (OMS). Smartphones developed for the OS have been popularly called "Ophones." China Mobile last week opened Mobile Market, a market for downloadable software applications for a wide range of OSs expected to be used on smartphones in China.
China Mobile's limited handset offerings are a major reason it has not attracted many 3G users so far, said Lai, the analyst.
A possible remedy to that problem would be launching TD-SCDMA services in Taiwan, said Lai. China Mobile has said it hopes to acquire a 12 percent stake in Far EasTone, a deal Taiwanese authorities are reviewing for national security concerns.
Success for that deal could lead to the creation of a TD-SCDMA network in Taiwan, Lai said. The launch of services on the island could then spark TD-SCDMA handset development there, giving China Mobile a wider range of phones to offer in China as well, he said.
Future Chinese efforts to promote TD-SCDMA abroad could also include companies like Huawei Technologies selling low-priced equipment for the standard in emerging markets, said Lai. China could take those measures in Pakistan, for instance, where China Mobile already has a subsidiary, he said.
HTC has agreed to help promote the carrier's OS and TD-LTE in addition to making 3G handsets. Other companies working on TD-SCDMA mobile phones include Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Motorola, Lenovo and Huawei, Wang said.