China will not issue third-generation (3G) mobile telephony licenses until late 2006 or 2007, Chinese media reported Thursday.
Analyst estimates on when the licenses will be issued now range from October or November 2006 to early 2007.
China’s Ministry of Information Industry (MII), the nation’s telecom regulator, has never released a timetable for 3G licensing or rollout or said how many licenses it will issue, although industry participants generally believe MII will offer six licenses. Foreign carriers will not be allowed to apply for licenses.
Chinese officials and industry executives have stated they want 3G in place in time for the August 2008 Olympic Games to be held in Beijing.
Li Yanfeng, an analyst with Beijing-based CCID Consulting, which has ties to the MII, said the licenses will likely be issued in early 2007, which would still give operators time to deploy the necessary equipment and launch services.
But another technology consulting firm, Norson (Hong Kong) Information Technology, said that licenses will be issued in October or November of this year, the Xinhua News Agency reports. Norson representatives could not be reached for comment.
The mysterious timetable seems to have caught even industry heads off guard. Just Wednesday, the chairman of China Telecommunications (China Telecom) said that telecom regulators would issue the licenses “soon,” according to the official China Daily newspaper, although he was not more specific.
Wang Xiaochu said his company will use China’s homegrown time division-synchronous code division multiple access standard, and could roll out services within seven to eight months of receiving a license, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
At present, China Telecom cannot offer mobile services as part of its telecom license. China Mobile Communications and China United Telecommunications are currently the only two carriers authorized to provide mobile services in China.
-Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service
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