Video calling only draw as service lacks content The mainland's homegrown TD-SCDMA third-generation (3G) mobile service hit the streets last week but faces many of the same technical and service-related teething problems that beset Hong Kong operators four years ago. China Mobile Communications Corp has launched commercial trials in eight cities with about 60,000 mobile phones and 15,000 3G data cards made available to the public. 'We were very busy in the first two days of business [April 1 and 2] as visitors came to our shops to try out 3G mobile phones and buy handsets,' said a spokesman for China Mobile's TD-SCDMA shop in Hongxiang Garden, Shenzhen. Ten sales representatives were on hand during the launch to explain and demonstrate 3G services. Five customers aged 20 to 40 and with a strong interest in mobile technology subscribed to the TD-SCDMA service during a 90-minute period, the spokesman said. 'Most of the users were interested in the video-calling service, which allows them to talk face to face via a 3G mobile phone,' he said. Video calling might be the only selling point for the TD-SCDMA service, much like the Hutchison Telecom 3G service when it launched in Hong Kong in January 2004. While Hutchison's 3G service also offers video content from i-Cable, Television Broadcasts and other content providers, China Mobile's TD-SCDMA service lacks any such services. Instead, it offers what is already available to 2.5G users, the Monternet value-added service platform that provides musical ring-tone downloads, mobile instant messages, picture messages and games. China Mobile will offer a streaming video service to TD-SCDMA users in the next phase of trials as the Beijing Olympic Games approach. Its soon-to-be-launched mobile television service will offer two live channels - China Central Television Olympics Channel and Phoenix Satellite Television Chinese Channel. 'We don't offer the video-streaming service at this stage. The company is expected to roll out these services to users in June or later this year,' the spokesman said. To attract users to the trial, China Mobile cut its TD-SCDMA tariff by 50 per cent, undercutting 2.5G services. It offers three voice packages from 28 yuan to 88 yuan per month ranging from 150 to 600 voice minutes, 10 megabytes mobile data usage, caller display and a value-added service based on the Olympics. A lack of choice in TD-SCDMA mobile telephones has deterred users from signing up. China Mobile sells six handset models priced from 1,800 yuan to 3,800 yuan each and carrying the mainland brands ZTE, Hisense, Lenovo and New Postcom, as well as South Korean brands Samsung Mobile and LG Mobile. 'Most of the users bought ZTE, Samsung and LG phones, which are of better quality and more stylish,' one sales representative said. Xiang Wenjun, the general manager of a mainland mobile advertising firm, was one of the first to sign up. However, when he tried to make a video call the telephone responded: 'No network'. 'My LG phone didn't work even after I restarted it. But my TD-SCDMA SIM card did work in my existing Nokia phone on the GSM network,' Mr Xiang said. There were a few more network connection problems in a number of his LG telephones, but the use of another TD-SCDMA SIM card worked with his telephone. China Mobile could not diagnose the problem but will offer him a new telephone or new SIM card to reactivate the service. Another TD-SCDMA user said his telephone disconnected from the network if left idle for more than 30 minutes. 'My friends complained that my TD-SCDMA phone was switched off and their calls diverted to the mail box,' he said. 'But when I called them back, the phone worked.' 'The feedback shows improvement on TD handsets is needed,' said Yvonne Chow, an analyst with JP Morgan.