China and 3G: Mixed Feelings

Since when has this word 3G been with us? (An ice age (already!), maybe?)

I’ve been watching the whole 3G thingy since just before the dot-coms imploded. I was tickled and teased by some crazy Nokia ad in 2000 which made me think that 3G would equate to talking to your phone card as if it was an actual phone! They also teased me about super-fast connection speeds, and stuff like that. In particular, Swisscom, which I then used on roaming in China, was full of the 3G stuff.

When I switched for good to China Mobile in 2002, all this 3G-ness went away. Then, we had 3G come back for 2008 as much of central Beijing got 3G coverage. I was kind of interested in one 3G bit — audiovisual phone conversations.

However, the 3G that came to the Jing in 2008 was a Chinese version of 3G — TD-SCDMA. As “China’s 3G baby”, this was supposed to be a serious contender to other “international” standards, including UMTS and WiMax. Unfortunately in 2007, China’s TD-SCDMA lost out.

Still, China couldn’t play a lost card — well, just like that, a lost card. It had to keep on promoting TD-SCMDA — in essence, “no matter what”. But the idea of locking 1.3 billion in just one nation into one standard is — well — not a good idea. Suddenly, this huge nation called China was like locked into a “non-standard” national standard that appears internationally incompatible.

Funnily enough, its Hong Kong SAR and even Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of its own, do “international” standards that are supported by the iPhone. This is particularly big as I’ve finally let the floodgates open — and am iPhoning like mad. (It also grants me a big wish: Subway tweeting when you want it!)

So now that 3G’s coming to China, I’ve quite a few questions to ask the Telco Gods about the whole thing. I realize that welcoming 3G with nothing short of an interrogation isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet, but oh well…

• Why does China feel like that it can roll out its own 3G standard when it’s playing around with the much of the planet’s GSM standard?

• China’s big on “self-made” technology. But at what cost does the grace of being “self-made” come? Is isolated “self-made” technology really all that great?

• You’ve got the 3G ads out all over the place. Are you ready to answer those questions the masses will flood you — in particular the big one, “What’s 3G and what does this mean to me?”.

I’ve probably zillions more (OK, maybe not that much), but here are a few questions to start already…

In the meanwhile, despite my doubts, I wish TD-SCDMA, and at that, China’s lurch into 3G, much success.

You may also like...