The fourth and largest round of TD-SCDMA trials will focus on mobile handsets Equipment makers and operators are testing TD-SCDMA in preparation for its imminent commercial deployment. TD-SCDMA is one of the three 3G standards recognised by the International Telecommunication Union and the one likely to be adopted first by the 1.3 billion-user mainland market. The upcoming trial will be held by China Netcom, China Telecom and China Mobile in three cities in Hebei, Shandong and Fujian provinces in collaboration with four network equipment groups and 14TD-SCDMA handset makers. Different from the previous three rounds of trials and likely to be the largest field trial ever conducted, the focus this time would be on handsets - more than 5,000 of which would be tested on their reception to network coverage. Handset applications would also be assessed, industry players said. 'It would be a lesser test of network equipment this time, as that has already been covered in the previous rounds of trials,' said a head of a TD-SCDMA equipment vendor who sought anonymity. The trial is expected to be completed by July. Industry players said handsets were often the last component in a mobile network to be tested, after other 'upstream' parts such as the radio systems and switches. In fact, the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) has officially declared TD-SCDMA a mature enough national 3G standard, based on which Chinese equipment vendors have started making equipment. As in other countries, handsets in China must also be certified by the MII through a network-entrance certificate before they can be sold by the telecoms operators. Jin Wang, regional director for China at telecoms test and measurement solutions provider Anite Telecoms, said there were several mainland laboratories that offered certification for mobile handsets. Some of them, partly owned by foreign companies, have cross-recognition status with European certification bodies such as the Global Certification Forum and the PCS Type Certification Review Board in the US so that handsets certified by these labs could be directly exported. 'Some of the certification labs are accredited by the MII ...so, for example, if a handset-maker wants to sell its 3G handsets to China Mobile, which is a state-owned enterprise, it must get certification from these MII-accredited labs,' Mr Jin said. Anite provides testing solutions such as those that assess the interoperability between handsets and network. Industry players said MII- accredited labs were beginning to install test equipment for TD-SCDMA. An official from the Development Research Centre of the State Council, a economic and finance research institute for the Chinese government, said last week that based on data provided by Chinese telecoms operators, it estimated 3G network investment would amount to 600 billion yuan for the first six years after licensing. The latest expectation is for Beijing to issue the first 3G licence based on TD-SCDMA to China Telecom, most likely in the second half of this year. Gail Heck-Sweeney, general manager of China communications operation at testing equipment provider Agilent Technologies, said TD-SCDMA equipment vendors and operators were asking for lower-cost, more flexible and consolidated testing equipment that could speak to other hardware. 'The industry has done a very good job [in the testing], there is a lot of due-diligence done in the trials,' Ms Heck-Sweeney said.