ZTE believes the future of TD-LTE as a commercially viable access technology will be determined by device makers.
The Chinese equipment vendor explained to Total Telecom at CommunicAsia on Tuesday that, as with mobile standards that have gone before, early TD-LTE products will likely come in dongle form.
"The LTE 'handset' in the last few years has been a dongle," noted Zhang Jianguo, CTO of ZTE's Asia Pacific region. "Now we're seeing [LTE] smartphones – it was the same with 3G."
He said TD-LTE adoption will likely accelerate once a compatible smartphone has been launched; however, the addressable TD-LTE subscriber base is currently too small to attract much interest – and budget – from the big device makers.
Consequently the market, rather than the technology on its own merits, will determine the success of TD-LTE.
"Look at CDMA," said Jianguo. "It is a good technology, but GSM has been more commercially successful.
"It depends on the whole industry chain," he added.
Operators will certainly have a role to play too, Jianguo continued, particularly China Mobile, one of several pioneers of China's home-grown mobile broadband standard.
With 677 million customers, China Mobile is the world's biggest operator by subscribers. The company is currently trialling TD-LTE, and plans to roll out a network comprised of more than 200,000 base stations by 2013.
"The device front is the bottleneck," said China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua, in a report by Bloomberg. "There is no problem from the technology standpoint."
Bharti Airtel is also shaping up to be a big driver of TD-LTE. In April the India-based telco, which has 181 million subscribers in its domestic market, launched the country's first TD-LTE network in the Kolkata service area.
Ultimately as far as Jianguo is concerned, it is still all about devices.
"For TD-LTE to develop, it depends greatly on the handset," he concluded.