China Unicom and China Telecom have picked-up licences for trial FDD LTE networks in 16 cities, according to reports originating from the country.
As yet, however, it is unclear when the Chinese authorities will issue commercial FDD LTE licences, to complement the TD-LTE licences issued to operators late last year.
According to Reuters, the licence issue has been confirmed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
While market leader China Mobile is all-in with its support for TD-LTE, its rivals have both said they envisage a model where both network types are deployed to deliver high-speed services to consumers.
In the meantime, China Mobile has been aggressively building out its 4G network, putting it ahead of its rivals in the game.
Last year, China Unicom said that there “won’t be any wavering” on its plan to deploy FDD LTE as an evolution of its WCDMA network, while undertaking a rollout of TD-LTE that is focused on provincial capital cities and coastal cities.
And in its most recent results release, China Telecom said that it intends applying for an FDD LTE licence alongside its TD-LTE permit, in order to “deploy a 4G network appropriately with regard to the government policy and business development”.
China Telecom has also said it intends to deploy its network in such a way that the majority of the investment supports both FDD LTE and TD-LTE operation.
The Chinese authorities have favoured TD-LTE due to the heavy involvement of Chinese companies in the development of the technology – which is not the same as for FDD LTE.
But, unlike in the 3G space, where the China-developed TD-SCDMA standard failed to gain any traction outside of its home market, TD-LTE has gained international support.
And the Global TD-LTE Initiative, the body promoting the adoption of the technology, has also promoted the co-existence of the technology with FDD LTE from the outset, with the aim of enabling operators to make the best use of diverse spectrum allocations seamlessly.