China Unicom has been testing WiMAX networks in five major cities, including Dalian, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. The Company expects to finish the trials before the end of 2006 and then will make a decision regarding commercial deployments.
China Unicom is testing the mobile WiMAX flavor (802.16-2005) and the targeted market is business customers. The company considers WiMAX as a complementary technology to its CDMA networks. Unicom will also use WiMAX for cellular backhaul.
Unicom's executives don't believe WiMAX will be integrated with TD-SCDMA. Such a scenario will increase network complexity and complicates user terminals. A handset with both technologies will be too expensive.
Since the 3G spectrum auction is still up in the air, all the major telecom carriers have expressed different levels of interest in WiMAX. Guangdong Netcom has signed purchase agreements worth more than $30 million. Many WiMAX equipment vendors and even chip companies like Intel have strong hope for China's WiMAX market potential. Of course, if the market takes off, Huawei and ZTE, two leading local vendors, are likely to reap benefits.