China plans to implement its own mobile multimedia standard. The state regulator expects all mobile phone providers in China to use the standard for mobile television services. Providing economic independence from competing international standards, it could give China a lead in converging communications.

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and TV, SARFT, has announced that it will be issuing China’s Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting standard, CMMB. The broadcasting specification will become an approved industrial standard from 1 November 2006.

The system will provide satellite transmission with additional ground transmitters in urban areas. A key part of the system is the Satellite Terrestrial Interactive Multiservice Infrastructure or STiMi standard developed by the SARFT Academy of Broadcasting Science.

A researcher there told the official Xinhua news agency: “The introduction of STiMi, which is China’s independent intellectual property right, demonstrates that China has world leading technology in the field, and will not have to submit to the standards of other countries”.

A SARFT official is reported as saying: “The real fight is between the domestic industry and foreign standard makers”. The adoption of a domestic industry standard will avoid royalty payments to foreign companies.

Development of the STiMi standard began in early 2003 and SARFT intends that trials will begin in 2007, with commercial services expected to begin in 2008, in time for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Some commentators are concerned that the proposed standard is unproven and that the timetable for implementation is very ambitious, but the potential of the Chinese market is enormous.

There are 350 million television households in China, but that number has been surpassed by the number of mobile phones. There are 420 million mobile phone subscribers in China, a number that increased by more than 30 million in the first six months of 2006.