China Unicom Set on 3G CDMA, Qualcomm Says

HONG KONG (06/15/2000) - Chinese mobile operator China United Telecommunications Co. (China Unicom) is committed to future CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology from Qualcomm Inc., according to executives from the U.S. mobile technology company interviewed here Thursday.

China Unicom earlier this month announced it would not deploy current IS-95 narrowband Qualcomm CDMA technology, instead looking to the company's emerging broadband third-generation (3G) technology.

Unicom's stated plans to conduct trials of a network based on Qualcomm's CDMA 2000 1x system next year, and later deploy them for services, represents a commitment to Qualcomm's technology, according to Qualcomm executives interviewed at the CDMA World Congress Thursday.

"Unicom's commitment to 1x is a commitment to the spirit of IS-95 CDMA," said Kimberley Kleber, director of product marketing at Qualcomm. The 3G network will work with current phones, according to the company.

Beginning work on 3G CDMA instead of the current technology makes sense for Unicom, Kleber said.

"Even if they were to sign a contract and go forward, it would take them a year to roll out the (narrowband) network," Kleber said. By that time, 3G technology will be ready for testing, according to Qualcomm.

China Unicom announced in February it would deploy a CDMA network by the end of this year that would support as many as 10 million users. The carrier already operates a large GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network. A series of conflicting reports and statements on Unicom's plans followed over the next several months.

Following the change in Unicom's plans this month, the Chinese government also announced that eight telecom equipment manufacturers are doing, or plan to do, research and development on CDMA. [See "Report: Qualcomm Inks CDMA Licenses in China," June 8.]However, an executive of one of those companies acknowledged that researchers in Beijing, encouraged by the central government, are working on a homegrown version of third-generation CDMA. [See "China to Go It Alone on 3G Standards," June 7.]The government would like to see Chinese operators use the homegrown technology, though development will take a long time and the local team may miss its chance, said Hou Zhengzhi, CDMA technology director for ZTE Corp.

(Zhongxing Telecom). ZTE makes current CDMA equipment for Great Wall Telecom and plans to work on both CDMA 2000 1x and Wideband CDMA equipment.

Great Wall, which has trial CDMA networks operating in Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and Guangzhou, is not currently licensed to run operational networks, Hou said.

Other companies that have agreed to develop 3G products include Datang Telecom, Capital, Huawei Technology, Eastcom, HiSense Group, Langchao Group and Shanghai Lawton Technology Group, according to a list released by Qualcomm.

"China wants to make its equipment in country. These R&D agreements let them develop CDMA equipment," Kleber said.

State-owned China Unicom is China's second largest telecommunications carrier.

Qualcomm is in San Diego, California, and can be reached at http://www.qualcomm.com.

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