Global smart phone manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Apple are striving to increase their presence in the Indian and Chinese LTE market with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier with over 700 million subscribers, planning to kick off a new type of LTE service from the latter half of this year. China is the biggest regional smart phone market in the world, accounting for 25% of the global smart phone sales. Using the numbers game, China Mobile adopted an LTE technology different from the mainstream technologies. India has taken up the technology and Saudi Arabia and Russia are also moving in the same direction.
At present, 90% of the telecom operators around the world, including KT, SK Telecom and LG U+ in Korea, are using LTE-FDD, or long term evolution frequency division duplex. Meanwhile, China Mobile and India’s Bharti Airtel have adopted LTE TDD, which stands for time division duplex, to take their own way.
Although the number of the mobile carriers using LTE TDD is less than 10% of the total, the number of the two companies’ potential customers reaches no less than 2.5 billion. Approximately 158 million people are expected to subscribe to the service by 2015 to take up 37% of the global LTE market.
Industry experts are saying that the rankings of smart phone makers will change depending on who dominates the huge emerging markets. The LTE markets in Korea,the United States and Japan are already reaching saturation.
It is LG Electronics that led up. The company developed its first LTE TDD-based smart phone, Optimus G, in May and supplied it to Saudi Telecom, the number one telecom operator in the Arab region. The product is planned to find its way into China and India during the second half of this year, too. Samsung Electronics, in the meantime, is going to supply the LTE TDD version of the Galaxy Note 2 to China Mobile this month and apply the same technology to the Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, etc. Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE are coming up with new models to defend the local market as well.
According to the companies, the supply of LTE TDD-based handsets is no tall order because they have only to place a chip supporting both TDD and FDD in their products, which entails little increase in manufacturing costs.
Consumers are likely to feel little inconvenience, either. If you are in China with a handset using LTE FDD, you cannot enjoy the fast LTE services due to the difference in communication method and frequency. However, countries across the world use the same type of third-generation telephony and you can still use the voice call and data services with no trouble at all.
The 2.3GHz frequency allocated for LTE TDD services in India and China is also used in Korea, by SK Telecom and KT, for their mobile WiMax services better known by the name of WiBro. KT CEO and president Pyo Hyun-myung said last year that the frequency would have to be converted for LTE TDD services allowing for the fact that the WiBro failed to win over the general public. “Then, KT will have to return the frequency,” the Korea Communications Commission retorted at that time to silence the argument.
On the part of mobile carriers, which are struggling in the lack of frequencies dedicated to LTE services, getting a new frequency bandwidth, whether FDD or TDD, is a great boon because it can be utilized to deal with the problem of user concentration. However, some people are casting doubt on the necessity of building LTE TDD networks from scratch with the nationwide networks being already laid on an LTE FDD basis. This is of no help for customers since they have to buy new smart phones if they are to use the LTE TDD service.
In contrast, mobile phone manufacturers are in favor of setting up local LTE TDD networks as they need a sort of test bed for their LTE TDD smart phones before making inroads into the Chinese and Indian markets. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning is planning to organize a task force to discuss the suspension of WiBro and utilization of frequency resources.