China Mobile is expected to complete the closure of its 3G network by 2020, C114 writes, citing a notification from Fuzhou Municipal Radio Administration as confirming that the operator has started decommissioning its TD-SCDMA base stations. The cellco was reported to have begun shutting down the network back in Q1 2016 and, although China Mobile denied the rumours, over the subsequent three years users have complained of worsening signal strength and coverage. C114 also notes that China Mobile’s 5G Terminal Product Guide – published last year – does not require devices to support the home-grown TD-SCDMA standard it uses for its 3G network. China Mobile has not officially confirmed its intention to deactivate the network, but its continued operation is seen as unlikely given the extent of its 4G network and take-up of the more advanced system. The operator is planning large scale 5G rollout and tests this year with a full commercial launch to take place in 2020; the 3G switch-off is expected to coincide with the 5G launch.
As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the TD-SCDMA standard was barely used outside of China and the technology suffered from an under-supported ecosystem and was plagued with technical difficulties. Of China Mobile’s 925.07 million subscribers at the end of 2018, 712.65 million were 4G users, whilst by contrast, its 3G customer base was estimated to number just 50 million.