Reports that China seeks to issue 4G licenses to mobile gear vendors by the end of 2013 have sparked speculation on which manufacturers will be granted access, and how China’s gargantuan mobile market will shift as the fourth-generation wireless network takes over.
China Mobile’s February announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it intended to build out a 4G network was seen as the prelude to a long, drawn-out installation plan, but it appears as though 4G could become a reality for Chinese consumers by August 2013. Reports detail China Mobile’s 200,000-large deployment of 4G-ready base stations across the country; all that remains now is to get the equipment-makers on board for the 100+ cities waiting to connect to the high-speed network.
The mobile operator won’t have any trouble finding takers. Not a shock, given the size of the market: 1.1 billion mobile subscribers leaves the potential for huge profit and sparks interest from vendors domestic and abroad. It’s expected that the telecom operator will favor China-based mobile makers — Huawei and ZTE being the likely favorites — to win access first to the 4G network during 2013. Foreign telco equipment giants including Sweden’s Ericsson and France’s Alcatel-Lucent are eyeing the network build-out just as chipset maker Qualcomm and South Korea’s smartphone maker Samsung are hoping to get a sizeable chunk of China’s 4G action as well, although these suppliers from abroad will necessarily face the competition from China’s entrenched (and government-supported) vendors.
Those billion-plus potential users mean there’s plenty of room for healthy domestic competition in 4G buildouts. Particularly from China Unicom and China Telecom — rival operators of China Mobile that have seen greater success with 3G than China Mobile has. Which means that this development is in itself (at least in the light of the potential for business growth) more important than who gets what access to China Mobile’s network via devices or chipsets. An expanded wireless network across the country will give consumers and businesses alike access to faster, more reliable mobile communication, and could spark further adoption of mobile devices in enterprises should Chinese corporations become amenable to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend running rampant across the U.S. BYOD is a lucrative sector for those in tech — not just mobile makers — as companies find themselves wrangling data amongst internal machines and ones operating on external networks. As China’s consumers and companies gain increased access to a 4G network, service providers from those in cloud computing and device management arena should be on the lookout for new opportunities as well.