BEIJING, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Wednesday issued 4G licenses to three Chinese telecom operators, marking the beginning of a new era in China's high-speed mobile network.
China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom received permits to offer fourth-generation (4G) mobile network services employing homegrown TD-LTE technology.
The ministry said the three companies have conducted large-scale tests of TD-LTE, or Time-Division Long-Term Evolution, one of two international standards, and their technology is ready for commercial service.
Zhang Feng, the MIIT's spokesman, said 4G technology will lower bandwidth costs and promise faster mobile broadband.
The ministry's figures showed that the Internet speed of 4G networks is 10 times that of 3G services, and allows mobile users to download a 7-megabyte music file in less than one second.
China Mobile said the rates for 4G services will be cheaper than those for 3G. In some cities where the company has launched the 4G network for trial commercial use, the tariff is 20 percent less than similar 3G network plans.
Li Yue, president of China Mobile, said the price of 4G smartphones will go down quickly following the approval of the 4G network for commercial use.
Now only a number of smartphone models in China are equipped with modules that support home-grown 4G TD-LTE technology, with their prices ranging from 350 U.S. dollars to 800 U.S. dollars.
Li said 4G terminals for as little as 150 U.S. dollars will be available on the market by the end of this year.
The MIIT also said Wednesday it will test a converged TD-LTE/LTE FDD network at a later date.
China is the major promoter of the TD-LTE standard and is also a major owner of the standard's core patents. LTE FDD is the other international 4G
standard and is popular in Europe.
The MIIT said the convergence of the two standards is gaining momentum in the global telecom industry. A total of 10 converged TD-LTE/LTE FDD commercial networks have been established so far worldwide.
"China will issue licenses for LTE FDD when the condition is ripe," said the ministry.
Experts believe the commercialization of TD-LTE will create a new impetus for China's economic growth, as the country is home to the largest number of mobile phone users in the world.
The ministry's statistics showed that the 3G network contributed 211 billion yuan (34 billion U.S. dollars) to China's GDP in its first three years of commercial use.
"The 4G industry chain, which involves terminal manufacturing and the software sector, will further improve the services of China's telecom sector," said spokesman Zhang Feng.
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