With some 270 million mobile subscribers, China is now the world’s largest mobile market. Faced with long waits and high fees for land-line installation, many Chinese consumers naturally opted for cellular service instead: mobile subscriber numbers surged to pass fixed-line users last year. Personal Handyphone System (PHS) that had been tried, without much success, in Japan was retooled for the Chinese market by an obscure US-based company called UTStarcom (Nasdaq: UTSI) and rechristened “Personal Access System” (PAS).
China Telecom was quick to recognize that this quasi-mobile phone service offered a back door into the booming mobile market. It gave it a brand – Xiaolingtong or “Little Smart” – and priced it low enough to bring mobility to the masses.
A Little Smart handset looks like a cell phone and, for the most part, works like a cell phone: users can make calls, send text messages, disrupt meetings and annoy theater-goers just as they can with a standard cell phone. Technically, however, Little Smart is a limited-mobility extension of the fixed-line phone network. Think of it as a revved-up household cordless phone with a citywide reach: Little Smart users connect to the copper wire network through base stations placed on rooftops around their city. Continue >>