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Analyst Insights iSuppli: Driven by LTE, China’s Wireless Infrastructure Investment will Peak in 2014
Apr 24, 2012 – Hailin Zhao

Increasing expenditures on equipment intended to support the rollout of 4G long term evolution (LTE) wireless services are expected to cause China’s total spending on mobile infrastructure gear to peak at $11.2 billion in 2014, according to the IHS iSuppli China Electronics Research Service at information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).

“Time-division (TD) LTE is undergoing pre-commercial trials in China, which will continue through the second half of 2012,” said Hailin Zhao, analyst for China electronics research at IHS. “However, actual LTE services will start to launch in 2013, boosting infrastructure gear expenditures. The year 2014 will mark the peak of the current infrastructure gear spending cycle until the next generation of wireless investment begins.”

This year, China’s mobile infrastructure spending will decrease by 7 percent to $9.9 billion, down from $10.7 billion in 2011. In 2013, spending will inch up 1 percent to $10.0 billion before rising by an impressive 12 percent in 2014, as shown in the figure below.

 

Explosion of Subscribers
By the end of 2011, China’s mobile users amounted to 975.7 million, up 15.9 percent from 2010.

Out of this total, 2G subscribers increased 6.7 percent to 848.2 million. Meanwhile 3G subscribers grew explosively by 171.0 percent to 127.5 million.

At the end of 2011, China Unicom had deployed 240,000 wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) base stations with more than 720,000 carrier sectors (CS). Meanwhile, China Telecom deployed about 400,000 base stations with over 1.4 million CS. Furthermore, the number of TD-SCDMA (time-dvision synchronous code division multiple access) base stations in operation reached 200,000 with 1.5 million CS.

In terms of the GSM network, there were 680,000 base stations with more than 7.5 million transceivers (TRXs) operated by China Mobile, compared to 380,000 base stations with over 2.0 million TRXs that were deployed by China Unicom. Moreover, China’s broadband network volume reached 230 million ports, up 25.7 percent from the end of 2010.

 

China Mobile Nearly Finished with TD-LTE Trials
China Mobile started the second phase of its TD-LTE trial in October 2011, with the trial anticipated to be finished before the end of June this year.

More than 10,000 evolved UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications systems) terrestrial radio access network node Bs (eNodeBs) were planned to be built. Three cities—Beijing, Tianjin and Qingdao—will take part in the second round of the trial.

The second phase of the trial will focus mainly on testing TD/SCDMA and TD-LTE dual-mode equipment and devices. This will allow China Mobile to practice large-scale commercial deployments and to enhance its interconnection and interworking capability, such as roaming and handover, among different vendors’ TD-LTE equipment and devices.

IHS estimates that the total investment will reach as much as $500 million for the second round. Most of the eNodeBs deployed in the next trial can reuse the current TD-SCDMA network resources, including civil works and fiber optical, to greatly reduce total capital expenditures.

China Mobile also plans to launch its TD-LTE pre-commercial in Shenzhen and Hangzhou during the second half of 2012, with the total number of TD-LTE eNodeBs amounting to 20,000 units. If TDLTE licenses can be issued at the end of 2012 or at the beginning of 2013, the operator will complete its coverage in the densely populated areas at various municipalities, provincial capitals and cities specially designated in the state plan by the end of 2013, and then go on to seamlessly cover the urban areas at or above the county-level cities by the end of 2014.

IHS estimates that the number of TD-LTE eNodeBs will amount to 150,000 units by the end of 2015, with the next round of wireless infrastructure investment in China to peak in 2014.



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