Executives from Qualcomm and Samsung – two of the biggest players in mobile handsets and chips – expressed their concern in Geneva recently at the slow pace of development for next generation services in the Chinese market.
Both Dr Irwin Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm Inc and Sang Jin Park, executive vice president and general manager of Samsung Electronics' mobile communications division, felt disappointed at the Chinese government's seeming lack of interest in promoting third generation technologies and services at this time.
Although China Unicom's CDMAone based network is moving ahead quickly, the momentum has been lost on upgrading it to higher data rate services such W-CDMA and cdma2000.
"The timescale to award licenses for the 2.1GHz spectrum is being pushed out all the time, and the latest information suggests the decision is not now due till at least the middle of next year. There are numerous trials and testing programs, but the impetus seems to have been lost", said Dr. Jacobs.
According to Dr. Jacobs, China's current operators are pushing hard for a delay in the decision to move ahead, while those waiting in the wings with 3G, such as China Telecom, and the equipment and handset suppliers are urging the government for progress. One reason for the delay may be the TD-SCDMA air interface version of 3G, which has been largely developed for the Chinese market – Dr. Jacobs holds that it will not be ready for commercialization for at least another two years. "Everyone naturally hopes the Government will go ahead with awarding the licenses before then".
In Samsung's view, one of the problems with the CDMAone network roll-out has been that China Unicom spent too much money developing the network and had to abandon its policy for subsidizing handsets. "Despite these investments, their coverage is nowhere near as comprehensive as those operators using the GSM network, so they are suffering. However, they have started investing again and are back to subsidizing phones, so I am hopeful China Unicom will reach its target of 13 million subscribers by the end of this year," said Sang Jin Park.