TD-LTE — the variant of LTE being pushed primarily by China Mobile and Clearwire — may not be licensed for commercial use for another two to three years in China, according to a local media interview with the head of the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The bearish language comes just days after China Mobile announced that it had its sights set on upgrading some 20,000 base stations to support TD-LTE this year and another 180,000 in 2013, but there's apparently concern in the government that the carrier's homegrown 3G standard — TD-SCDMA — doesn't yet have enough penetration and that the TD-LTE hardware ecosystem isn't mature enough for commercialization.

It's unclear how, or if, this news will affect Clearwire's planned TD-LTE rollout in the United States. The wireless wholesaler (and major Sprint partner) has made no secret of the fact that it believes the future is LTE, not WiMAX, and Sprint's transition to LTE over the next couple years would seem to support that philosophy. If the world's largest operator ends up getting hamstrung by Chinese bureaucracy, though, that could put a kink in the TD-LTE ecosystem that Clearwire simply can't afford.