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China finally gives out 3G licences

After all the waiting and wrangling, China has finally decided to hand out its 3G licences, with six lucky handset makers — including ZTE and Lenovo — getting the nod, according to local press reports.

China isn’t using the 3G standards most people are familiar with, preferring a homegrown variant called TD-SCDMA. China has been notoriously slow to move on 3G and so it’s good to see the country gradually shifting from the trial phase into something approaching a full-on commercial launch.

The question of standard is still hanging over China though – by picking its own flavour of 3G and one that’s only used in China, there could be problems with roaming and with persuading the mobile makers to create TD-SCDMA compatible devices. Nevertheless, China has the advantage of being a huge market – by 2011, analysts reckon there will be 51 million users on TD-SCDMA and presumably a lot more to come. If nothing else, China has the sheer weight of numbers on its side to get the mobile industry interested in its version of 3G.

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