Thursday, August 27, 2009

FUD against EV-DO in China

W-CDMA supporters in China are running a campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) against EV-DO efforts there, in a rehash of their strategies from the 2G CDMA wars.

In the great 3G reorg of China last year that created three mobile operators, China Unicom got GSM/W-CDMA, China Telecom got CDMA/cdma2000 and China Mobile got the homegrown TD-SCDMA. On January 7, all three were awarded their 3G licenses after more than five years of delay.

In a story on China Unicom’s plans to sell the iPhone in China, Forbes included some commentary on China’s three-way fight for 3G market share:
Unicom was given a WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access ) license. China Mobile, which holds a commanding 74% share of domestic subscribers, obtained TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access), a homegrown 3G standard based on spread spectrum technology that is different from approaches used in the West). And China Telecom was allowed to develop CDMA 2000 (a hybrid 2.5 or 3G technology which built on code division multiple access, or CDMA, technology used worldwide.

Among the three, China Unicom's WCDMA is regarded as the leading 3G approach. What's more, it's the only 3G technology used by the iPhone.
This sort of FUD marketing strategy is a classic technique by a dominant player to marginalize competitors. IBM in the 1970s was credited with inventing the strategy for the tech industry, and of course Microsoft used it against open source software or other rivals in the 1990s.

Perhaps cdma2000 1x is a 2.5G technology ala EDGE. The fights between GSM and CDMA camps over what should count as “3G” caused a fair amount of disagreement.

But certainly EV-DO — as fast as W-CDMA’s HSDPA — is a 3G technology. This year China Telecom has issued a series of tenders for procuring EV-DO equipment. The company is preparing a new round of handset tenders and can brag about superior data performance.

So to say China Telecom is only developing “2.5G” is a lie. The claim about W-CDMA being the leading technology is true from an adoption sense, if not from a standpoint of technological performance.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know where the reporter got the bad information. The Chinese equipment suppliers are the least likely suspects, since leading firms like Huawei and ZTE provide equipment to all three of the major standards: W-CDMA, cdma2000, and TD-SCDMA.

However, based on the bitterness of the GSM vs. cdmaOne (or W-CDMA vs. cdma2000) fight, the most likely suspects are those who want to commercially weaken cdma2000 and China Telecom. That leaves either rival operators (China Unicom, China Mobile) or foreign W-CDMA equipment providers such as Nokia and Ericsson.

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