IMT-Advanced (4G) for the next-generations of interactive mobile services, China is triumphant

See also: Mobile Internet (Aug’11) which is a total update on Aug 26, 2011 with a lot of additions to the original July 19, 2010 content on the following subjects:
– LTE and LTE Advanced — HSPA Evolved (parallel to LTE and LTE Advanced) — Heterogeneous networks or HetNets — Femtocells and Picocells — Qualcomm innovations in all that — Ericsson’s LTE Advanced demo — Current roadmaps on evolutions of current 3G+ broadband mobile networks

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) press release regarding its ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) came a few days ago: ITU paves way for next-generation 4G mobile technologies – ITU-R IMT-Advanced 4G standards to usher new era of mobile broadband communications [Oct 21]:

In its recent meeting in Chongqing, China, ITU-R Working Party 5D, which is charged with defining the IMT-Advanced global 4G technologies, reached a milestone in its work by deciding on these technologies for the first release of IMT-Advanced. In the ITU-R Report, which will be published shortly, the LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced technologies were each determined to have successfully met all of the criteria established by ITU-R for the first release of IMT-Advanced. The Report is expected to be approved by ITU Member States at the ITU-R Study Group 5 meeting in Geneva in late November 2010.

six proposals received by ITU in October 2009 were individually subjected to a rigorous assessment, supported by the work of independent external evaluation groups that had been established around the world. Industry consensus and harmonization fostered by ITU-R among these six proposals have resulted in the consolidation of the proposals into the two agreed IMT-Advanced technologies. These technologies will now move into the final stage of the IMT-Advanced process, which provides for the development in early 2012 of an ITU-R Recommendation specifying the in-depth technical standards for these radio technologies.

China Mobile Communications has reached a consensus with Apple under which the next-generation of iPhones to be sold in China will adopt TD-LTE technology developed by China Mobile, the Chinese-language Commercial Times quoted the China-based carrier’s chairman Wang Jianzhou as saying.

China Mobile has begun voice testing on its TD-LTE experimental networks in Shanghai and commercial operations of the 4G networks in China are expected to begin in 2012, the paper said.

By 2012, China Mobile also plans to set up over 40 experimental networks, 10 commercial networks and 20,000 base stations globally to promote the adoption of the TD-LTE technology, the paper added.

The thing which is talked about here is the future of the mobile Internet as presented by my core information article Mobile Internet [July 19]. Anyone not familiar with magic words and numbers mentioned above could easily get the essence of what is going on here from that “down-to-earth” overview. The explanation was started with the nomenclature of the second and third generation (2G and 3G) technology standards we are all using with our phones, smart ones or not. This allowed to present the whole expanded nomenclature in a form of an extended table coming in the end to the fourth generation (4G) technologies as:

4G (IMT- Advanced) 3GPP family LTE Advanced
WiMAX family IEEE 802.16m
now: WirelessMAN-Advanced (“WiMAX 2”)

The only new name here is WirelessMAN-Advanced, actually corresponding to the next version of WiMAX, we may say it will be a kind of WiMAX 2. In the new naming MAN is standing for Metropolitan Area Network which is indeed a better expression of the fact that with this “WiMAX 2” we are speaking of a high-speed, high-bandwidth efficiency and high-capacity multimedia service specifically designed for both residential and enterprise applications. (As well noted in the title of the excellent 2007 book Mobile WiMAX: Toward Broadband Wireless Metropolitan Area Networks).

Those who are interested in the process which led to the final stage of IMT-Advanced can read the materials which appeared in the No. 2 (Nov. 2008) issue of ITU-R e-Flash about IMT-Advanced. According to the IMT-Advanced submission and evaluation process the six proposals received were:

Doc. IMT‐ADV/4 ‐ Acknowledgement of candidate submission from IEEE [802.16 Working Group http://wirelessman.org] under Step 3 of the IMT‐Advanced process (IEEE [based on evolving draft of IEEE 802.16m, supporting both TDD and FDD duplexing] technology)
Doc. IMT‐ADV/5 ‐ Acknowledgement of candidate submission from Japan [ARIB] under Step 3 of the IMT‐Advanced process (IEEE [based on IEEE 802.16m, supporting both TDD and FDD duplexing] technology)
Doc. IMT‐ADV/6 ‐ Acknowledgement of candidate submission from Japan [ARIB] under Step 3 of the IMT‐Advanced process (3GPP [their LTE Release 10 & beyond proposal with both FDD and TDD components ] technology)
Doc. IMT‐ADV/7 ‐ Acknowledgement of candidate submission from TTA [Telecom Technology Association, Korea] under Step 3 of the IMT‐Advanced process (IEEE [currently using their own WiBro standard harmonized with IEEE 802.16e and going to evolve from that to 802.06m as this proposal, including both TDD and FDD duplexing] technology)

Doc. IMT‐ADV/8 ‐ Acknowledgement of candidate submission from 3GPP proponent (3GPP organization partners* of ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TTA AND TTC [see: Global Standards Collaboration in wikipedia]) under Step 3 of the IMT‐Advanced process (3GPP [their LTE Release 10 & beyond proposal with both FDD and TDD components ] technology)
* Organisations explicitly named in the proposal (operators from China, Korea and Japan are highlighted in red): Alcatel-Lucent France, Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell, AT&T Inc., British Telecommunications Public Ltd. Co, China Mobile Communications Corporation, China Telecommunications Corporation, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited, DaTang Telecommunication Technology&Industry Holding Co., Ltd, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), eMobile Ltd, Fujitsu Limited, Hitachi Ltd., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd, Japan Radio Co. Ltd., KDDI Corporation, KT Corporation, LG Electronics Inc., LG TeleCom Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Motorola Inc., NEC Corporation, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), Nokia Corporation, Nokia Siemens Networks GmbH & Co. KG., NTT DoCoMo Inc., OKI Electric Industry Company Ltd. (OKI), Panasonic Corporation, Qualcomm, Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, Sharp Corporation, SK Telecom, SOFTBANK MOBILE Corp., Telecom Italia S.p.A., Telefon AB – LM Ericsson, Toshiba Corporation, ZTE Corporation

Doc. IMT‐ADV/9 ‐ Acknowledgement of candidate submission from China (People´s Republic of) [Chinese administration] under Step 3 of the IMT‐Advanced process (3GPP [based on LTE-Advanced TDD standards developed there] technology)

ViodiView’s contributing editor Alan Weissberger, principal of DCT Advisors (see also his profile on WiMAX360 community site) published an excellent clarification arcticle on the further details: ITU-R Progresses LTE Advanced and WiMax 2.0 as 4G RAN standards [Oct 20]. Some notable excerpts:

  • the basis for specifying the “LTE-Advanced” technology in Step 8 is Document IMT-ADV/8, which is technically identical to IMT-ADV/6 and IMT-ADV/9 (except that IMT-ADV/9 contains only the TDD RIT component); and
  • the basis for specifying the “WirelessMAN-Advanced” technology in Step 8 is Document IMTADV/4, which is technically identical to IMT-ADV/5 and IMT-ADV/7.

We re-iterate that the LTE that will soon be deployed is NOT a 4G technology, but a 3G technology (3GPP Release 8) that is included in ITU-R M.1457-9 Detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000 recommendation for 3G RANs).  We are worn out by all the 4G hype over LTE and Mobile WiMAX and feel compelled to set the record straight.  No, 4G is not a technology that’s faster than the initial 3G RANs. ITU-R defines the criteria for 3G and 4G and we wonder why so many pundits make up their own definition.

Motivation of LTE Release 8 (soon to be deployed)

Need to ensure the continuity of competitiveness of 3G systems for the future
-User demand for higher data rates and quality of services
-Public Safety optimized system
-Continued demand for cost reduction (CAPEX and OPEX)
-Low complexity
-Avoid unnecessary fragmentation of technologies for paired and unpaired band operation

LTE Release 8 Key Features:

The 3GPP candidate technology submission for IMT-Advanced (4G) is 3GPP Release 10 & Beyond (LTE-Advanced) has been accepted as a 4G technology at the Chongqing meeting of ITU-R Working Party 5D, having successfully completed Steps 4 through 7 of the IMT-Advanced process in ITU-R, complying with or exceeding the ITU established criteria in all aspects.

Mainland China went enthuasiastic about this ITU milestone. The leading English-language newspaper in the country, China Daily reported on the event as Chinese 4G mobile standard goes global [Oct 20]. A few notable excerpts [emphasis is mine]:

The TD-LTE-Advanced technology has a download speed of 100 megabytes per second, faster than the preceding third-generation TD-SCDMA technology. Industry analysts said Chinese telecom enterprises are set to benefit from the TD-LTE 4G standard, as it will help to open both domestic and overseas markets for them.

“The situation now is very different from 10 years ago, when TD-SCDMA was set up as a 3G international standard,” said Yang Hua, secretary-general of TD Industry Association in China. He said because China lacked an industry eco-system at that time, the use of TD-SCDMA technology was largely restrained to the domestic market. International enterprises were wary of investing in a technology developed in China, especially when it had not undergone a market test.

China Mobile launched its TD-SCDMA service in January 2009, and the largest mobile operator in the world will have invested 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) in it by the end of this year. Prior to September, the company had 15.27 million TD-SCDMA subscribers. Overall, it has 507 million subscribers, most of them using second-generation technologies.

Nearly all the best known international telecom companies, such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, are engaged in the TD-LTE industry. They are determined not to miss out on the Chinese market again as they did in TD-SCDMA era, Yang at TD Industry Association said. “They lost many China Mobile contracts when bidding against companies such as Huawei and ZTE, because they ignored the development of TD-SCDMA and offered very few competent products,” Yang said.

Shi Guang, secretary-general of TD Forum, said Chinese telecom companies in the TD-LTE industry chain will be presented with a great business opportunity when they enter the international market. “They will go head-to-head with global companies. Who dares say that another Huawei or ZTE may not emerge in the process?” Shi asked.

According to a survey by Ovum, an international market consulting company, the TD-LTE technology will earn about $150 billion in revenue by 2015.

So China is triumphant because they own licences of their home-grown TD-LTE technology, therefore a much bigger chunk of that revenue will come to them (or remain with them) than before. In addition to that they will be able to move to real 4G (LTE Advanced) through their already accelerated TD-LTE program as noted in my post 3.9G TD-LTE rollout in 2012 with integrated 2G, 3G and 4G? [July 19]. Their leading operator, China Mobile, also the one with TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE technologies, published the following roadmap in its August 19 Interim Report (see slide 9):

The US situation has been described in my earlier post, “4G” WiMAX vs. 3.75G HSPA+ [July 24]. Please note that both the current major WiMAX provider, Sprint and the HSPA+ provider T-Mobile are absolutely wrong in calling their offerings 4G. (BTW this is what was meant by Weissberger’s words “We are worn out by all the 4G hype over LTE and Mobile WiMAX and feel compelled to set the record straight”. They are actually not alone with such mislead ing statements among operators.)

A kind of introduction to the worldwide competitive situation has been provided by another post of mine: WiMAX/WiBro <=> TD-LTE and LTE in general [June 28], which is also providing sufficient information on the roadmap of the global LTE leader, the Japanese NTT-DOCOMO . This had also a follow-up: Intel dismisses WiMAX Program Office [July 1]. The Mobile Broadband reality by Akamai [July 29] post provided actual data on average and average maximum connection speeds from 109 mobile carriers around the world.

The most important strategic market assesment, however, is in my post: Could China close the gap in mobile Internet? It should! [July 21]. The most dramatic findings were expressed with the following two diagrams (copied here as a kind of reminder):

October 2010 update

China’s three telecom operators have over 10 mln 3G users each by end-Oct, MIIT [Nov 24]:

According to statistics released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), China’s 3G service subscribers reached 38.64 million by the end of October, up 10.4 percent month on month, and up 295.7 percent year on year.

By end of October, China Mobile’s TD subscribers came to 16.98 million, China Unicom’s 3G subscribers amounted to 11.66 million, and China Telecom’s 3G subscribers reached 10 million.

Q3CY10 update

I’ve made an update of the above numbers which is showing a similar gap, but for China Mobile relying on TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE only, there is an even more threatening situation.

China Unicom and China Mobile announced their subscriber statistics for September on Oct. 21 and 20, respectively. For the 3G part the results are 10.554M and 15.279M. Month by month 3G statistics are as shown on the following two diagrams:

China Unicom and China Mobile Q3CY10 3G Subscribers

The third operator, which also has wire business, China Telecom also released some statistics. Unfortunately they are providing only quarterly 3G subscriber information on their website (see: http://www.chinatelecom-h.com/eng/ir/kpi.php?cat=quarterly ) so I had to rearrange data to quarters in order to show both the absolute number changes and their own 3G penetration rates, as you could see both on the below diagram:

As you could see China Mobile was able to increase its own 3G penetration rate from 1.89% to just 2.68% during the last quarter. At the same time China Unicom had a significant increase of 3G penetration from 4.82% to 6.51%.

China Telecom achieved even more with Q3CY10 penetration rate of 11.03% since they made heavy invesment into CDMA2000 EV-DO 3G technologies. Their chances to grow even spectacularly during the current quarter could be even bigger since they were the first operator to release quite attractive smartphone subscription packages for less than 1,000 yuan [~ US$ 148] apiece. In both Huawei and ZTE versions there is a true, even mid-range level smartphone with 990 yuan calls included!

See:
China Telecom roll out it’s first 3G-smartphone-Packages around 1000 yuan, with 990 yuan free calls [Oct 21]
ZTE N600 cheep Android handset spotted [Oct 16]
Huawei C8500 bargain Android phone hands-on video [Oct 14]

China Mobile therefore is taking urgent actions to accelerate its competitiveness. One of the most important elements is certainly to provide similar to China Telecom’s low priced bundles:

See:
China Mobile Started Direct Purchasing of 6 mln TD Phones [Oct 22]
Marvell beaten by Chinese chipmakers in sub 1,000 yuan handset procurement tender of China Mobile [Nov 15]:

… with prices ranging from 350 yuan [US$52.7] to 650 [US$97.8] yuan.

While the latest quarter business performance of China Mobile has been not bad, as reported by China Mobile Jan-Sept net profit up 3.9% on 3G [Oct 20], the same report states that:

China Mobile and its two major rivals, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. and China Telecom Corp., are competing for subscribers to their 3G services, whose faster data speeds and pricier service plans could boost the companies’ average revenue per user–a key gauge to determine long-term growth for telecommunications operators.

China Mobile’s ARPU fell to CNY72.0 in the nine months ended Sept. 30, from CNY75 a year earlier. The company’s ARPU has fallen as it has pushed farther into less developed regions of China to keep adding subscribers, including users of its less expensive 2G services.

Analysts said China Mobile’s introduction of new handsets could boost growth in the firm’s 3G business in coming quarters, though subsidies for these handsets and depreciation expenses for the carrier’s 3G network are likely to continue to weigh on profitability this year. The firm said in a statement its average revenue per minute of usage has been declining due to low usage by new customers, while its value-added services business has become the major driver of revenue growth.

In the mid-term 2012-15, however, China Mobile is going to have enormous advantage as ITU paves way for next-generation 4G mobile technologies one of which is the future Release 10 version of their TD-LTE (China Mobile is calling it TD-LTE+ on its roadmap slide included above). Whether they will be able to exploit that will solely depend on the value added services they should bring out to the market masterfully. But that is another story.

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About Nacsa Sándor

Lazure Kft. • infokommunikációs felhő szakértés • high-tech marketing • elérhetőség: snacsa@live.com Okleveles villamos és automatizálási mérnök (1971) Munkahelyek: Microsoft, EMC, Compaq és Digital veterán. Korábban magyar cégek (GDS Szoftver, Computrend, SzáMOK, OLAJTERV). Jelenleg Lazure Kft. Amire szakmailag büszke vagyok (időrendben visszafelé): – Microsoft .NET 1.0 … .NET 3.5 és Visual Studio Team System bevezetések Magyarországon (2000 — 2008) – Digital Alpha technológia vezető adatközponti és vállalati szerver platformmá tétele (másokkal együttes csapat tagjaként) Magyarországon (1993 — 1998) – Koncepcionális modellezés (ma használatos elnevezéssel: domain-driven design) az objektum-orientált programozással kombinált módon (1985 — 1993) – Poszt-graduális képzés a miniszámítógépes szoftverfejlesztés, konkurrens (párhuzamos) programozás és más témákban (1973 — 1984) Az utóbbi időben általam művelt területek: ld. lazure2.wordpress.com (Experiencing the Cloud) – Predictive strategies based on the cyclical nature of the ICT development (also based on my previous findings during the period of 1978 — 1990) – User Experience Design for the Cloud – Marketing Communications based on the Cloud
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