Mobile World Congress – Shanghai 2016
This is the third in a series of GigSky “reports from the road” as we, the GigSky team, travel to various conferences across the globe. We’ll bring you the latest industry news, insight on what we see, how it might impact you, and future developments to keep an eye on.
This report is from our VP of Business Development, Rich Neville, who recently traveled to Shanghai, June 29- July 1, for Mobile World Congress – Shanghai.
2G in a 4G World
China is a fascinating country and sometimes perplexing to outsiders. Corporate arrangements in the telecom sector are uniquely complex.
There are 3 mobile operators in China – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. China Mobile was the first company to have a mobile license and the company grew to a massive size (800M+ customers), dwarfing all other operators and even large operator groups. The Chinese government decided that China Mobile needed some competition, so they gave mobile licenses to the two fixed line providers – China Unicom and China Telecom. This played out in a rather convoluted way – Unicom was given a GSM 3G license and China Telecom was given a 3G CDMA license. China Mobile was also given a 3G license, but instructed that they could only use TD-SCDMA, China’s homegrown 3G standard.
Leveling the Playing Field?
The intent of the new licenses was to foster competition for China Mobile and level the playing field by giving the new entrants licenses and technology that was more widely used internationally. Because China Telecom started out with CDMA and not the more widely used GSM standards, they were a distant 3rd in size with a “minuscule” 220M customers. To level the playing field further when 4G came around, China Mobile was given the least common frequencies with Unicom getting one major international frequency and China Telecom getting 3 popular international frequencies.
Most international mobile operators who have roaming agreements with both China Mobile and Unicom were faced with a dilemma; send (and receive) traffic from mega-sized China Mobile, but provide a poor 2G customer experience when their own subscribers were in China or receive a smaller amount of traffic from Unicom, but be able to offer 3G roaming. A lot of operators took the higher income levels from China Mobile, but I can attest that their customers are suffering.
Testing Google Fi In China
On my trip to China, I was testing out the Google Fi international service in addition to our GigSky service. While I am a heavy user of Google products, their selection of China Mobile is far from ideal. Being very familiar with roaming, I tried to force the device to 3G, but was unable to, leaving me with 2G. These days, 2G is completely unusable. Maps won’t load, emails won’t send and translation software (an essential in western China) won’t download. Google certainly isn’t the only operator doing this and it’s a major disservice to their customers. International operators shouldn’t be so focused on the bottom line that it comes at the expense of their customers.
GigSky’s got your back – 3G service from China Unicom available throughout the country.