China Telecom has confirmed that its LTE network will support both TD and FDD strains.
The number three player will pump CNY5 billion ($816.5 million) into trialling the hybrid technology later this year.
The move is a response to China’s 4G licensing process, with the “indigenous” TD-LTE technology likely to be favoured by having licences issued earlier. China’s 3G auctions favoured the TD-SCDMA standard to the detriment of more international technologies, including WCDMA and CDMA2000 1x EV-DO.
China Telecom chairman and CEO Wang Xiaochu stated that the operator was aiming to be as flexible as possible in the long-term.
“To support national technology innovation and allow flexible use of spectrum resources to meet customer demand, we plan to deploy one hybrid LTE network of integrated resources, sharing the core network with wireless access through both TDD and FDD,” said Wang.
Wang refrained from revealing exactly when the trial would begin or how extensive it would be, but noted that it would at least initially cover areas with a high population density.
The operator is also considering a network sharing or renting agreement with China Mobile, which has long been a champion of TD-LTE architecture. China Telecom could share base stations with the market leader but would likely build out its own core networks.
The second place operator China Unicom has also underlined that it will trial both TD-LTE and FDD technologies, with chairman and CEO Chang Xiebing noting that his company would “be well prepared for the FDD-LTE network construction”, adding that Unicom would “actively promote the evolution of WCDMA to FDD-LTE”.
FDD-LTE has been the most widely adopted LTE strain globally, but TD-LTE is by no means unpopular. Most significantly it is backed by China Mobile, but it also has the support of India’s Bharti Airtel and Japan’s SoftBank.
According to recent data from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), there are currently 200 live LTE networks. Of these, 182 are based on the FDD LTE strain while only 9 use the TDD version exclusively. The other nine use a combination of the two, in a similar manner to China Telecom’s planned network.