The Chinese government has finally granted the much awaited FDD-LTE licenses to wireless carriers China Telecom and China Unicom to operate 4G services across the country. The government granted trial licenses to these carriers in June to start their 4G operations on a hybrid TD-LTE/FDD-LTE technology standard in select cities in the country.
Notwithstanding the limitations in expanding its 4G network coverage, third largest wireless carrier China Telecom added 11.4 million high speed (3G and 4G) subscribers in the latter half of 2014 compared to its tally of just 4.1 million adds in the first six months last year. Now, with the full licences in place, we expect the carrier to aggressively expand its 4G network coverage and boost its monthly high speed user adds.
Currently, market leader China Mobile is the only carrier in the country with an established 4G network, because its homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G network is fully compatible with TD-LTE 4G technology, licenses for which were granted by the Chinese government in December 2013.
Owing to its network compatibility and first mover advantage, China Mobile has been able to race ahead of rivals in attracting new subscribers. It added about 144 million high speed subscribers in 2014, accounting for over 77% of all high speed user adds in the country in this period. In comparison, China Telecom managed to add only about 15.5 million 3G/4G users, accounting for just over 8% of all high speed user adds.