TDMA, or TD-SCDMA, is a Chinese domestic 3G standard (Wikipedia). China was not behind the west in terms of 2.5 GSM network and applications in recently years. Actually the development of mobile phones are so successful, the total users of China mobile phones users already exceeded half a billion (source: digitimes). China Mobile (NYSE: CHL), the largest mobile operator, has more than 400 millions customers at the end of 2008.
But all that did not translate into momentum as the world goes to 3G (third generation) in terms of mobile network. Japan and Korea are the leaders, while US, Europe are not so far behind. Here in the US, iPhone 3G helped AT&T get almost half the new subscribers, while Blackberry and others are helping Verizon driving growth. Another area of growth, is mobile broadband. More recently, we have seen the carriers selling subsidized netbooks in order to sell data plan. At the same time, the middle kingdom at the east, is still mostly using cell phone for voice and text messaging. One reason for the delay of 3G network deployment, is the hope of installation so called domestic brewed standard (TDMA, this is not accurate as TDMA was originally developed by Siemens). Another reason, I think, is the network operators such as China Mobile has no incentive to invest heavily in 3G because the domestic application is not there yet (economy reason). To make things worse, those two things got tangled as China Mobile was asked to implement the TDMA as 3G standard, and they can not use much developed standard such as WCDMA.
So the result, is like my friend Wang Jianshuo said in his Chinese blog, 3G is not in China yet.