As more people have smartphones and use more data, the task of providing a network large enough is tricky. Especially in China.
China has been a fast growing market for all things technology the past few years, and their wireless industry is no exception. China Mobile alone has more wireless subscribers than AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile combined. The number of connected device in China is only going to skyrocket as the people get better access to quality technology.
Despite the size of their subscriber bases, though, Chinese carriers are struggling to roll out quality cellular networks and LTE coverage is proving to be tricky to provide. China not only has a lot of land mass to cover, but the country is also home to almost 20% of the worlds population. Getting a signal to wireless subscribers isn’t the only issue faced, they also need appropriate bandwidth and backhaul to support the dense population.
As a solution, China’s top 3 wireless providers–China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom–are going to spin off their network divisions to form a massive jointly owned firm (likely named “National Tower Company”) which will be responsible for building and maintaining a national LTE network which will in turn be leased to each of the 3 participating companies.
This type of strategy is not all that uncommon in China, where the line between personal property and government property is often blurred, but this could definitely be the best way to provide service to over a billion Chinese citizens.
It makes a lot of sense, as it’s not a drastically different structure from the way most countries build roads and highways. A third party (usually the government) owns and maintains the roads and the cars and trucks that drive on the road fund it through tax dollars and/or tolls.
Such a system could do wonders for all the carriers at play, but it’s unlikely they could get along in order to form such a partnership. There are all sorts of other roadblocks as well, such as the various technologies at use in the US. A single network that supported any phone from any provider would be an incredible technical feat.
As technology improves, especially with features like Wi-Fi calling and public Wi-Fi, partnerships like this could begin to become more practical in other countries, but for now, it’s up to the Chinese to show the rest of the world how to demonstrate how to build a massive network.