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!