Chinese Mobile Carriers Expanding 3G infrastructure

According to iSuppli, a market research company, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile,China’s three mobile carriers will spend $6.3 billion in wireless infrastructure equipment by the end of 2009, an increase of 27.7%.

The three carriers, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile, completed the first phase of their 3G network before August and should increase coverage significantly by the year’s end. China Telecom’s 3G network currently covers 342 cities and will expand to 500 cities by the end of the year, iSuppli says. China Unicom covers 285 cities, and China Mobile covers 38, but plans to have service in 238 cities by 2010.

This huge spending comes from the rapidly expanding 3G service in China’s cities, with more than 100 million subscribers expected by 2013. There were only 338,000 3G subscribers in China last year. China Telecom was able to increase its subscribers to 46.8 million from 18.9 million between January and September of this year. The company is expected to have 50 million subscribers by 2010.

By the end of June, China Mobile completed building 44,000 TD-SCDMA basestations. The company is expected to have an additional 60,000 basestations and 450,000 transceivers by the end of this year. Despite the increase in its wireless infrastructure, iSupply says China Mobile has slower 3G deployment speeds than its competitors. This is attributed to a lack of handset terminals, unstable infrastructure equipment, and the company’s desire to establish TDD-LTE in the coming years.

China Mobile will also continue to develop its GSM networks, but because of the company’s concentration on TDD-LTE, it will continue to lose market share to its competitors until it can roll the service out in 2011, iSupply says.

China Telecom deployed about 480,000 transceivers during the first three quarters of 2009, and will continue its rapid expansion through the fourth quarter. China Unicom had 71,000 basestations by September of this year, iSuppli says, and is expected to add another 30,000 to its network before January 2010. The company is also expected to have WCDMA networks covering 384 cities by the end of next year. iSupply predicts that China Unicom will spend more than $900 million on wireless equipment this year as it continues to upgrade its GSM network to EDGE.

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