The 5G story of China

China’s 5G Race:

With the roll out of 5G telecom services in China on Friday 1 November 2019, China is in the race of becoming the world leader in next generation telecom technology. The three major state-owned carriers, China Unicom, China Mobile as well as China Telecom, have rolled out their 5G services throughout China. With the entrance of 5G services in China, the citizens would have access to superfast internet speed. There are 86,000+ base stations which cover 50 cities in China. China may not be the first country for launching 5G but will be the biggest network in the world due to its extensive adoption of cell phones and population.

During June 2019, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology gave a green signal for the commercial use of 5G licenses to four state-owned telecom giants, China Broadcasting Network, China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom.

By mid of October 2019, Shanghai activated 11,859 5G base stations. Before the commercial launch of 5G services in China, the three major mobile operators had already registered more than 10 million users.

China since more than 20 years, has grown its investment into research and development, and it ranks second in the world in terms of R&D spending. When it comes to 5G services, China is behind the US but not for a longer time as it is giving a fierce competition. China’s investment in 5G network is expected to grow rapidly. Many forecasters believe that during the period of 2020 to 2025, China would be spending above US$215 billion and would have more than 450 million 5G connections. (as per China Internet Report)

Huawei, the world’s leader in telecom equipment provider, which got blacklisted in the US over the security reasons and alleging theft of trade secrets, is ready to roll out 5G infrastructure across South East Asia. Huawei played an important role in the US-China trade war by witnessing a number of taxes that were imposed on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods. It was also been prohibited to buy American-made parts without an exclusive license.

The company (Huawei) is now in its initial discussion with the US firms about licensing its 5G network technology to them as stated by a Huawei executive to Reuters. The company has recently secured 46 commercial 5G contracts in 30 different nations and has already shipped above 1 lakh 5G stations globally. The company also received permission to participate in the 5G trial by the Indian government during the India Mobile Congress to be held at New Delhi in October 2019.

5G history in China:

China’s ambition with respect to the 5G standard-setting process came into picture in 2013. IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group, formed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), together with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), to give a thrust to the preparation of 5G standard in cooperative mechanism with the EU, US, Japan and Korea. Domestic and international operators and technology vendors participated in the 5G promotion group to provide their valuable inputs to 3GPP and support in global unified 5G standard development.

At the state level, the government, through its 13th Five-Year Plan and Made in China 2025, would aid industry Research & Development and try for commercialisation of 5G in 2020. It also laid stress in the preparation of international 5G standard and make China amongst the key players. In March 2017, in the Government work report, the Premier of China’s State Council highlighted 5G amongst the budding industries. The MIIT also built the 5G Development Guidance with an objective to make 5G as an essential infrastructure for the country’s social as well as economic development. A guidance report was also released by NDRC related to the information infrastructure construction projects for 2018 that directs 5G networks to be constructed in at least 5 cities to form an uninterrupted coverage.

On a global scale, the guidance would provide the Chinese companies with an edge in autonomous driving and the IoT. On a domestic level, it would lead to large scale job creation and growth of new devices, applications, followed by business models which would help in accelerating the Chinese economy substantially.

Let’s understand the timetable for 5G development in China.

  • In late 2015, China started its first phase of Key technology verification and the R&D which was completed by the third quarter of 2016.
  • The second phase including the technical solution verification was started during the fourth quarter of 2016. Before the start of the fourth quarter of 2017, the second phase of the 5G trial was concluded.
  • By the end of 2018, China started the 3rd phase of 5G testing. During this period, it finalised the first draft of 5G standard. It also built a 5G trial network.
  • By mid of 2019, China completed the final draft of 5G standard and late 2019 licenses for 5G were issued
  • By 2020, China would continue to expand its 5G network, and commercially launch 5G in large and sized cities.
5G devices in China

The launch of 5G network would give rise to the strong demand for the 5G devices in China. The new technology would require appropriate devices which would support the technology. The first 5G reference smartphone design came into the picture in October 2017. The smartphone would support multiple sub-6GHz and possibly millimetre wave frequencies with 4K or 8K. The mass production of this device would be done after the 5G standard finalises.

Major 5G handset brands hitting the Chinese market:

  • Samsung S10 5G, Note10, A90.
  • Huawei Mate20 X, Mate30 series.
  • Zhongxing Tianji Axon 10 Pro.
  • Xiaomi's first 5G mobile phone.
  • iQOO Pro, Vivo NEX 5G.
  • One plus 5G mobile phone will be sold in the U.S


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