LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2014, SHANGHAI: China Mobile executive VP Li Zhengmao this morning revealed the operator’s goals for LTE deployment, claiming that a peak data rate of 1Gb/s should be the objective of 4G not 5G, while the world’s biggest operator targets 70 million 4G subscribers by the end of the year.
Outlining China Mobile’s network roadmap, he said it will adopt LTE-A to raise (theoretical) peak rates from 100Mb/s to 300Mb/s to 600Mb/s and then to 1Gb/s. “So we won’t have to wait for 5G to enter the gigabyte era,” he commented.
The China Mobile exec said network performance has jumped from 14Mb/s to 110Mb/s and frequency efficiency has improved by two to three times. 4G ARPU is 1.5 times its average level.
Li, who gave a keynote at the forum this morning, also emphasised the need for the industry to work together on the convergence of FDD and TDD technologies.
“If there are too many air interfaces, the industry will experience the same type of problems it had with 3G. “We have to reduce the differences between FDD and TDD, so in the 5G era, people won’t even talk about the two as they will be unified.”
Network traffic in China, Li said, is forecast to increase 1,000 fold between 2010 and 2020, compared to a global average of 240 times.
He noted that the growth in China won’t be balanced. In major cities, such as Beijing, the growth is estimated at 600 times while in rural areas it will be much lower. Hotspot growth, however, is expected to be over 1,000 times.
“It will be a huge challenge for us to support this growth,” he said.
Li said the cost per bit on its 4G network is just one-third of that on 2G and a fourth of the 3G cost. But he insisted that rate of decline is not enough. “I’m calling on all our partners to bring down the cost, so when traffic increases 1,000 times, the cost per bit will also drop 1,000 fold.” The parallel drew a hardy laugh from the audience of about 300.
China Mobile has signed up 50 million 4G subscribers in less than one year. To put that number in perspective, he said it took three years to hit 50 million 3G users and a decade to pass 50 million 2G users.
He expects to have 70 million 4G subscribers by the end of the year. Giving a conservative estimate, he said its 4G user base will reach 150 million by the end of next year and 300 million by the end of 2016.
He attributed the rapid uptake of 4G services partly to the abundant handset supply, which has been growing much faster than expected. China had 617 4G devices (all multimode), with 60 per cent of them priced close to CNY1,000 ($163). The cheapest are selling for CNY400.
Li said China Mobile has experienced three growth curves since it was established in 2000. Voice was first, followed by data and now digital services are taking off.
Voice has gone from accounting for almost all traffic to 67 per cent in 2011 and an estimated 40 per cent in 2016. Data traffic is projected to represent 30 per cent in 2016, up from 15 per cent in 2012, and digital services is forecast to also account for 30 per cent of traffic by 2016 (up from 18 per cent in 2011).
China Mobile now has 570,000 4G base stations and will have 700,000 by the end of the year. The target for next year is one million 4G base stations.