China set to begin 3G network deployments

China is set to begin to issue 3G mobile data network licenses after the country’s state council approved the issuance. The first licenses are expected early this year. Licenses will cover three standards, WCDMA, CDMA 2000 and TD-SCDMA. The former two are both global standards while the third is a relatively new standard backed by China.

It is estimated that up to USD$41 billion is up for grabs in government contracts over the next two years. It remains to be seen if the Chinese government will require that mobile carriers such as China Mobile and China Unicom use domestic equipment manufacturers (such as ZTE and Comba Telecom Systems) or if companies such as Motorola and Nokia will also be able to provide some of the architecture required.

The announcement is also good news for handset manufacturers. China could have up to 150 million 3G subscribers within the next two years. Most of these will require new handsets to take advantage of the new services offered by the faster 3G networks.