China has opened up its mobile broadband market after granting 4G licences to its three main telecoms companies, raising Apple’s hopes of signing a distribution deal with China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile operator by subscribers.
China’s mobile carriers have already embarked on an aggressive expansion of 4G networks under trial licences, prompted by a government that has identified the rapid adoption of superfast internet technology as crucial to economic and social development.
But the official sign off for 4G in the world’s largest telecoms market will mean a windfall for global technology groups such as Apple, which will finally be able to offer its latest iPhones on China Mobile’s networks.
China Mobile has long operated a 3G standard that was not compatible with the iPhone. As a result, China Mobile never signed a formal distribution agreement with Apple. The latest iPhone 5 and 5c models, however, are compatible with the new network.
The official licences, issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology yesterday, are for a homegrown standard for rapid mobile internet connections called TD-LTE, rather than its more popular international rival, FDD-LTE.
Licenses will also be granted to China Mobile’s rivals, China Unicom and China Telecom.
The ministry did not specify how much the three state-controlled groups would have to pay for the licences, if anything, which is in stark contrast to the vast sums paid for mobile spectrum by western groups.
The growing market for 4G services will also boost telecoms equipment makers such as NSN, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent alongside domestic providers such as Huawei, which have been asked to build and to support one of the world’s most rapid rollouts of mobile internet networks.
Additional reporting by Wan Li
长期以来，中国移动实行的3G标准始终无法与iPhone兼容。其结果是，中国移动从未与苹果公司签署正式经销协议。然而，苹果最新发布的iPhone 5和iPhone 5c手机与新的网络兼容。
中国工信部(Ministry of Industry and Information Technology)昨天发放的官方牌照将采用名为TD-LTE的中国本土的高速移动互联网互连标准，而不是其竞争对手、在国际上更流行的FDD-LTE标准。
中国移动的竞争对手中国联通(China Unicom)和中国电信(China Telecom)也将获得4G牌照。