Despite China's promise to have a 3G mobile phone network in place by the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a bluster-filled announcement made yesterday only served to underline that commercial services will not be ready in time.

The National Development and Reform Commission used a telecoms expo to attempt to reassure doubters by saying that a 3G network using the home-grown TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) standard would be up and running during the Olympics after all.

Next gen pie in the sky

However, the fact that the network will simply be a trial designed to showcase TD-SCDMA and that there are still no plans to issue essential 3G spectrum licences to commercial operators merely underlines that the so-called 'high-tech' Olympics are looking decidedly old fashioned.

The deployment of TD-SCDMA has been delayed by technical uncertainties and bureaucratic hold-ups, meaning that there is still a slim possibility that China will eat humble pie for the duration of the games and offer a limited 3G service based on US or European standards, such as CDMA 2000 and W-CDMA.