China Mobile Not Going Gently into the TD-SCDMA Night

| About: China Mobile (CHL)

A lot of people I talk to seem to be walking around in shell-shock after spending a punishing week in Hong Kong at either International Telecommunications Union World 2006 over by the airport or 3G World Congress in town, or madly shuttling between both for five days.

Will laments that the ITU show was a huge letdown, and that's not just fatigue talking. I talked to him early yesterday, and he seems to think that much of the problem is rooted in the unspoken anticipation that China would use the show to make an announcement about 3G licenses.

While we tut-tut knowingly about second guessing the Chinese government or trusting the rumor mill, a bigger question pops up - why didn't China take an opportunity to announce something?

A clue pops up on the radar on Xinhua Financial News via Forbes (thanks Fons) in the form of a quote from China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) Deputy General Manager Dai Zhong:

We think that W-CDMA is better for China Mobile. TD is a Chinese 3G standard, so we should support this network, but we have the largest GSM network in China

CHL pic


Despite suggestions elsewhere that China Mobile has caved-in to government pressure, the world's mobile giant still appears to be fighting a rearguard action against having the unproven, un-finalized, problem-ridden, politically-driven TD-SCDMA shoved down its throat.

Money is power everywhere, and Beijing is no longer an exception to that rule. China Mobile is that rara avis: a very large state-owned enterprise that is listed offshore, leads the local market, and is spinning cash. It would be a huge mistake to underestimate the implicit clout CMCC carries as it pleads its case at the MII, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development Reform Commission and elsewhere in town. TD-SCDMA developer Datang just doesn't punch that kind of weight.

China Mobile wants W-CDMA, and it will fight to the burger to get it. In China's 3G evolution, bet on that, not on the whims of a coalition of techno-nationalists at the MII.

CHL 1-yr chart:

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