Chinese 4G licenses handed out, services to start soon

|By:, SA News Editor

The Chinese government has finally issued 4G licenses (long anticipated) to China Mobile (CHL), China Unicom (CHU), and China Telecom (CHA), paving the way for commercial service launches to start.

China Mobile, which has already built out a giant "trial" 4G network, is set to have a 4G partner conference in two weeks that will reportedly feature an iPhone announcement. China Telecom says it will launch 4G services in Q1.

Notably, the licenses only cover 4G networks relying on the TD-LTE standard (allows for more capacity to be allocated to downlinks than uplinks, if carriers wish). China Unicom and Telecom both want to run networks using the FDD LTE standard, which is far more popular internationally, and say they still plan to request FDD LTE licenses in the future.

In addition to Apple, Chinese 4G launches are likely to benefit Qualcomm (QCOM). Whereas Qualcomm faces tough competition in the Chinese 3G baseband chip market (particularly on the low-end) and has had royalty collection issues for sales of phones running on China Mobile's TD-SCDMA 3G network, it has a dominant share of the global 4G baseband market, and hasn't had any major 4G collection issues.

Many think the Chinese government's anti-monopoly probe of Qualcomm is a bargaining tactic aimed at securing 4G royalty rate concessions.