China’s 3G carriers

        In January, China issued 3G licenses to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. Users can enjoy high-speed services such as video calls and film downloads on their handsets.
       China Mobile launched its 3G services, branded G3, in April, while China Telecom kicked off its eSurfing 3G services in March. China Unicom launched the Wo 3G services last month.
       China Mobile, which is using the domestically developed TD-SCDMA (time division-synchronous code division multiple access) technology, has attracted about one million 3G users, compared with its more than 400 million customer base. It adds up to 100,000 TD-SCDMA users every week, compared with 1.5 million to 2 million new 2G users a week, according to the TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance.
       About half of the 363,000 people recently surveyed online by cited fees as the biggest barrier to 3G, followed by 21 percent who don’t want to have to change their mobile numbers if they switch carriers, and almost 18 percent who said they are unhappy about lack of content and application.
       “Mobile phone content is still in its initial stage in China and it takes time for attractive content to emerge,” said Lu Tingjie, a professor at Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications.
In overseas markets where 3G has been available for several years, the most attractive 3G content is games, gambling and girls. Obviously, such content won’t be allowed in China, said Lu.
      In China, Nokia opened its online store Ovi last month. China Mobile and China Unicom are prepared to follow suit, but it could take years before that segment of the market matures.
      That means Apple Inc’s App Store won’t come to China, at least in the short term, because Chinese carriers are not willing to share application sales with Apple. The App Store, with 50,000 applications and a high popularity in Western countries, provides software applications for iPhone and iPod users.
      The mobile phone number, a valuable personal asset, is another barrier to 3G popularity in China.
      “If I wanted to buy an iPhone 3G, I would have to change my mobile number,” Cai said. “That’s too much to ask, even for an iPhone.”
      That’s not all. Cai would be forced to switch providers and subscribe to China Unicom, which uses the WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) technology that’s compatible with the iPhone 3G. That would also be the case with other popular 3G phones such as the Nokia N97 and the coming HTC Magic.
       China has started small trials for mobile number transfer between carriers in some places including the city of Tianjin. Most industry analysts don’t think there will be a nationwide system allowing users to retain numbers when changing carriers for another two years to three years because of system connection problems and sensitive negotiations among carriers.
       “I will be the last person in my office to switch to 3G if I have to change my number,” said Nancy Chao, a public relations executive with more than 1,000 numbers stored in her phone memory. and we think this is a very good news for China electronics manufacturers.

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