China Mobile has unveiled four smartphones built to run on its upcoming 4G LTE TDD network, with the handsets coming from foreign brands including HTC and LG, and Chinese handset makers Huawei and ZTE.
On Tuesday, China Mobile unveiled the handsets at a LTE summit during the Mobile World Congress, according to the company website. The carrier, has over 700 million customers in China, and has been preparing for the eventual launch of the country's 4G services, which is expected at the end of this year.
China Mobile has in the meantime been building up industry support for LTE TDD (Long-Term Evolution Time-Division Duplex ), a 4G LTE technology that can offer peak speeds of up to 100Mbps. Currently, most carriers across the world are using another LTE variant, known as LTE-FDD (Frequency-Division Duplex), to build their 4G networks.
The four phones unveiled on Tuesday can not only use LTE TDD networks, but also LTE FDD, besides China Mobile's 3G and GSM networks. The handsets were described as high-end models, built with 4.7-inch HD screens, and also ran on processors featuring multiple cores.
China's 4G networks are still undergoing trials across the country, and authorities have suggested the 4G commercial licenses for LTE TDD networks will be granted at the end of this year.
South Korean handset maker LG is gearing up for the launch and said in a statement it will roll out its LTE TDD phones for China in the second half of 2013.
For China Mobile, the arrival of 4G marks an important opportunity to regain an equal footing with its rivals in the nation, given the carrier's past struggles with launching its 3G network in 2009, said Teck Zhung Wong, an analyst with IDC.
Initially, the company struggled to introduce strong smartphone offerings for its 3G networks, because they used a homegrown technology called TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous CDMA), which is not widely adopted outside the country. Although the country's government backed the TD-SCDMA technology, China Mobile was slow to get handset makers to build smartphones for the standard, according to analysts.
"This is a big opportunity for them, to kind of shed a little bit the TD-SCDMA shackles," Wong said. "This time they are making sure that the entire supply chain, from chip vendors to handset makers, are all on board. So that the lack of handset terminals won't hold back the progress."