Its called a dual-standby capability, but wags have dubbed it the
“just in case” capability. Fancy a GSM phone that can also work on
TD-SCDMA, China's would-be 3G standard? I though not.

Nevertheless,
Chinese equipment manufacturer ZTE has bravely produced a mobile phone
for a market and a network that do not yet exist.

zte3g.JPGThe ZTE U350
is claimed to be the world's first TD-SCDMA/GSM “dual-mode,
dual-standby” handset. That means you can put a call on hold in one
network and take a separate call on the other.

Of course, the
dual-standby capability is pretty academic today as no commercial
TD-SCDMA services are operating in China — or anywhere else for that
matter.

While the rest of the world has opted for one of the two
tried-and-tested western 3G standards, WCDMA or CDMA2000, China has
held back the award of 3G licences to allow — some would say force —
its domestic telecoms industry to develop a home-grown alternative.

China's past attempts to develop global technology standards have so far proved fruitless, according to the China Economic Quarterly ($).

The
promotion of a home-grown 3G standard, far from benefiting domestic
manufacturers could actually put them at a disadvantage, argues the
'paper:

While the domestic market
may be large enough to sustain a Chinese standard at home, it would
likely lead to the collapse of handset makers' competitiveness abroad.”

TD-SCDMA
has been under development for a long time and there have been a lot of
false dawns. But could it finally be ready for launch?

ZTE's
announcement of the U350 suggests that it is, although from the photo
(above) we can't tell whether its a real working phone or a mock-up.

The Times believes the award of the 3G licences could come “as early as the end of this year”, although I remember reading similar predictions in 2005.

For more on the long-running TD-SCDMA saga, see this earlier EngagingChina post.

ZTE may not be a household name in the west, but it could soon become one.

It
has traditionally been more focused on China's domestic telecoms market
than its larger rival Huawei Technologies. But ZTE now exports mobile
phones and networking gear in a large number of foreign markets and, in
2005 , international sales grew 68% to 7.7bn yuan, just over a third of
overall revenue.

ZTE has sold more than 10m phones based on the
CDMA standard, the rival cellular technology to GSM that is widely used
in the US and elsewhere. In 2005, ZTE sold more CDMA handsets abroad
than in China, with 2m sold in India alone.

To date, the company's export drive has had most success in developing countries such as India or Nigeria, where it has built a handset factory.

But it now wants to penetrate mainstream markets in the west and recently won a deal with an unnamed Italian operator for high-speed wireless data cards, according to Reuters.

ZTE
hopes to do a lot more business in Europe but it was slow to enter the
market and arch-rival Huawei is now well entrenched as the “price
leader”.

Huawei's latest coup
is a deal to supply 3G radio access equipment to Vodafone's Spanish
subsidiary, which has 1.2m 3G customers. For more on how Huawei is
flexing its muscles in Europe see this EngagingChina post.

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