China will be ready for a full commercial launch of its controversial, homegrown third-generation mobile phone standard by June 2005, a senior telecomms official said on Tuesday.
Analysts say the telecoms regulator has been waiting for the relatively young standard, also backed by Germany's Siemens AG, to be commercially ready before issuing 3G licenses to mobile operators.
The Chinese technology, known as TD-SCDMA, is a competitor for the U.S. CDMA2000 system, backed by Qualcomm Inc, and Europe's WCDMA, supported by Ericsson and Nokia.
Zhang Qi, a senior official at the Ministry of Information Industry, said a full range of products designed to fit with the mobile standard would be available for commercial use by then.
"Right now, everything from the chips to the handset to the base stations has been tested successfully," she told a news conference. "I'm very confident that by June 2005, we will successfully launch a completely domestically made (TD-SCDMA) handset."
"The launch won't cause mobile operators to have to delay construction of their 3G networks," she added.
The licenses are expected to be issued to mobile phone firms China Mobile and China Unicom, and even possibly fixed-line operators China Telecom and China Netcom.
How and when the Chinese government issues 3G licenses will help determine which equipment makers grab billions of dollars in contracts likely to be awarded by mobile phone companies.
Zhang, a veteran at the telecoms regulator, said chips developed for the TD-SCDMA phone were ready in April 2004. The mobile phones would all be dual-mode, which means they can run on TD-SCDMA and either the CDMA2000 or WCDMA standards, she said.
"In May or June of 2005, China will launch at least five to six cell phones models based on TD-SCDMA with homegrown chips," she said.
She did not say which Western 3G standard the mobile phones would also work on. The phones will be made by a Shanghai-based firm called Spreadtrum Communications Inc.