The hottest topic of discussion in mobile in China today, is when their carriers will launch 4G services. The biggest mobile operator- China Mobile- has its network ready for local flavor of 4G, called TD-LTE, and had a bunch of smartphones certified for it a month ago. The only thing that’s missing- is the permission from Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to light-up the TD-LTE network for commercial use.
This permission is coming pretty soon. There is a lot of discussion about how soon exactly, but now we can stop speculating about the worst case scenario. According to MIIT minister Miao Wei, the first 4G licenses will most definitely be issued by the end of the year. Though the informed sources inside MIIT are whispering much earlier date – middle of October, with China Mobile’s 4G network going live soon after – in November.
And why do we obsess about the launch of 4G in China?
Well, because of the iPhone, of course. The main reason iPhone is not on the world’s biggest mobile network yet, is because China Mobile has been saving world’s most popular smartphone to headline its next generation network launch. Some leaked posters show that CM is preparing an advertising campaign, about how they will have “the strongest iPhone” in China, with full 3G/4G support and speeds of up to 100 Mbps.
With 9 million new iPhones sold over the opening weekend, these are pretty exciting days for Apple. But things might get even more fun in November. There are 42 million older iPhone users on China Mobile already, all of them unable to access even 3G service, and stuck on slow and archaic GPRS/EDGE. When all of those grey market iPhone owners get a chance to upgrade to official China Mobile iPhone 5s/5c, with a hefty subsidy on contract…
Let’s just say, I’m very optimistic about the iPhone growth numbers Apple will report in January.