TD-SCDMA is China’s homegrown claim to 3G mobile connectivity, an attempt to reduce royalty payments to foreign IP holders and force foreign telecom makers to license Chinese patents. The technology was originally developed by Siemens (back when they made cellphones) and Chinese scientists. There have long been questions about the radio technology and (thus far) user tests seem to bear that out.
Chinese ministry plans for TD-SCDMA have been on again and off again for years — and with them, the government’s willingness to license any 3G technology (since no other 3G technology would be allowed until TD-SCDMA could be deployed).
TheTD-SCDMA rollout was long planned to be showcased at the Olympics, and 20,000 phones were distributed to foreign visitors there.
In August the Chinese government confirmed that it was forcing allowing the country’s largest operator, China Mobile, to build a nationwide network, after trials in eight cities began in April. China Mobile had hoped to offer W-CDMA (with its breadth of manufacturers and economies of scale) or to provide dual coverage, but the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said no.
With the country’s largest operator now stuck pledged to deploy TD-SCDMA, foreign makers of handsets and semiconductors will kowtow before the technology to demonstrate to MIIT their loyalty and avoid ceding the market to rivals.
On Wednesday afternoon in China, Nokia announced that not only will it support TD-SCDMA phones in China, but that it plans to release a phone next year using Symbian OS:
Nokia has started the development of a TD-SCDMA device based on S60 on Symbian OS, and plans to launch the product before the end of 2009.Thus far, S60 has been GSM (or W-CDMA only). It would appear that this will be the first time it’s been deployed on another radio interface (with a different SIM card architecture, signaling, etc. etc.). There were once plans announced to release a CDMA version but somehow the phone never got released — perhaps due to Qualcomm/Nokia IP hassles or Nokia’s withdrawal from the CDMA market.
Nokia's S60 TD-SCDMA device will enrich the TD-SCDMA device portfolio for Chinese consumers, and promote the development of TD-SCDMA in China.
Symbian is the world's leading smartphone platform, with over four million developers globally. By launching the S60-based TD-SCDMA device, Nokia combines Symbian's massive resources with the market opportunities provided by TD-SCDMA. There are currently over 10 000 third-party S60 on Symbian OS applications commercially available. The current S60 on Symbian OS applications will be compatible with S60-based TD-SCDMA devices, offering enriched experiences to China's TD-SCDMA users.
There has been some speculation about Nokia’s commitment to S60, both with its Maemo tablets and the plans to open source Symbian. If such speculation were accurate, then the decision to use S60 in China would be surprising, given China is the world’s biggest market (and market penetration) for Linux phones (cf. Motorola.cn). Although I have no inside information, this implies that Nokia’s smartphone strategy for the next 18 months still remains firmly in the Symbian camp.