Monthly Archives: April 2008

A flood of Chinese standards

Please meet CCSA - China Communications Standards Association – one of the hyper-active Chinese governmental agency in charge of flooding the world of telecommunication with home-made standards. Not long ago it came up with an “earphone access” standard and an “interface data exchange” standard to regulate mobile phone data and transmission. Look out for green and yellow UDX labels (Universal Data Exchange)…

This time CCSA is shifting its focus from traditional telecom services to Internet-related convergent services. Together with major telecommunication operators, the agency is looking into providing convergent communication services through platforms and solutions offered by global suppliers like Cisco, Microsoft, Huawei or ZTE. The move indirectly acknowledges that some domestic companies have reached the technological capacity and maturity of leading international companies. Also, it doesn’t try the usual trick of competing heads on with existing standards - rather it attempts to bring together diverse technologies.

But don’t worry. CCSA has not completely given up on its more traditional business: it will soon issue a series of standards on energy efficiency and environmental protection for the telecom equipment manufacturing and telecom service industries.

Did China kill 3G?

Wasn’t the introduction of TD-SCDMA (the Chinese 3G standard) in 2008 supposed to mark China’s technological coming out? Not quite, at least that’s what two weeks of commercial trial seem to indicate.

Complaints about signal standards, restricted coverage and a general lack of content are comforting the eternal doubters of China’s capacity to successfully roll out its own third-generation (3G) service. There is even a kind of Schadenfreude among the watchers of the country’s technological efforts: “I told you so”, “TD-SCDMA was a disaster waiting to happen”…

For sure, TD-SCDMA’s agenda remained dictated by the government, rather than by consumers. The overall drive may also have lacked the necessary back-and-forth between the labs and the market to improve the technology and build on valuable consumer feedback. So, the withholding of 3G network licenses not only results in the non-deployment of more mature CDMA2000 or W-CDMA 3G networks in time for the Olympics. China also lost a chance to prove the openness of its markets and make good on its WTO committment to technological neutrality. Worse of all, the country may be sending techno-nationalistic signals without an ability to really deliver anything commercially viable behind.

Let’s hope that the failed launch of 3G can serve as an example for the deployment of 4G!

Green mobility redux

Chinese telecommunication operators are continuing on their green track. At a recent eco-friendly conference, China Mobile announced that it aims to reduce its electricity consumption by 40% in 2010 (from 2005). 73% of CM’s electricity is consumed by the 200,000 base stations across China. This measure comes on top of the recycling centers already installed and projects to develop solar power in base stations and telecommunication centers.

The eco-friendly technologies are provided by Nokia, Ericsson, Alcatel and Huawei. Nokia’s solution for 5’000 metropolitan base stations is expected to reduce as much as 73,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year – equivalent to the emission of 21,000 cars. By putting parts of the network not being used on standby mode, Ericsson announces 10 to 20% energy-savings per base station.

But then you hear about Huawei. The company claims that energy consumption of the equipment itself accounts for only 40% of operators’ total cost of ownership, the remaining 60% coming from air conditioners and other equipment. Their intelligent cooling uses fresh air as an alternative to air conditioning, a system that could save 30 to 70% of electricity. So much for high-end technology…

The future of mobile is in the countryside!

Despite having more than 550 million subscribers, the Chinese mobile market still has a lot of room to grow. Except that it won’t take place where you’d expect it: penetration in rural areas is still around 20% compared to 40% in cities.

Thanks to a 3-year project backed by Ericsson and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), lower-income farmers in remote villages are expected to be able to use their mobile phones soon to gain access to rural financial services – financing SME in China is one of the growth bottleneck. The project aims to overcome geographical isolation in the countryside, which has made access to rural financial services such as getting credit, sending remittances or making deposits expensive and difficult for people in rural China. China Mobile already offers an agricultural information service with advice on how to raise crops and animals, weather forecasts, news, and information on market prices for various products – for USD 0.25 per month per information category. 

Developing a mobile rural bank system will also allow Chinese banks to save a lot of money in comparison with having to create a physical infrastructure. The success of catering to lower-income population has already proven a success – bith for operators and for the citizen - in a number of developing countries (like Grameen Phone in Bangladesh).

So, the future is in the countryside!