Beijing: China's three major state-run telecom operators have unveiled their 5G network, as the country aims at becoming the global leader in next generation telecom technology surpassing the US and other western nations.
The US, the UK and South Korea have already rolled out their 5G networks this year, according to a BBC report. 5G is the next generation cellular technology with download speeds stated to be 10 to 100 times faster than the current 4G LTE networks.
The 5G networking standard is seen as critical because it can support the next generation of mobile devices in addition to new applications like driverless cars. State-owned carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom rolled out their 5G data services across the country on Thursday.
The entry of 5G means consumers can now get access to superfast speeds as more than 86,000 base stations, covering 50 cities, have already been set up in China. The three firms in simultaneous moves unveiled their monthly 5G plans with prices ranging from 128 yuan (about USD 18) to 599 yuan. Subscribers will be able to enjoy connections way faster than 4G and less expensive data per gigabyte, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The 5G commercial services are now available in 50 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Shanghai had activated 11,859 5G base stations by mid-October, which will support the 5G network coverage across the city's key outdoor areas, the report said.
The three major mobile operators have already registered over 10 million 5G users before the official commercialisation launch, it said. Beijing, which is embroiled in a trade and technology war with Washington, is hoping to woo India and other countries with its telecom technology.
According to an estimate made by the China Telecom, the country is expected to be a front-runner in the adoption of 5G services with over 170 million 5G subscribers by next year. South Korea will be in second place with a predicted 75,000 users, followed by the US with 10,000, analysts at Sanford C Bernstein said in a research note last week.
The US recently blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei, citing security and espionage-related concerns, and is now persuading its allies, including India, to block the world's largest provider of networking gear and the second biggest smartphone maker, from their new and upcoming mobile networks.
The Indian government has allowed Huawei to take part in the 5G trials during the India Mobile Congress held last month in New Delhi. China has been asking India to take independent and objective decision to permit Huawei 5G services in the backdrop of the US pushing for a global ban on the telecom firm over "security issues".
China is expected to have over 600 million 5G subscribers by 2025, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the global total, the Xinhua reported quoting a senior telecom official. However, sceptics are doubtful about the 5G speed. They say China's powerful firewalls, which control the internet, might slow down the services.
The firewalls actively block several international social media networks like Twitter, Google and Facebook. Meanwhile, major handset makers have also forayed into the 5G technology market. As many as 18 5G smartphone varieties were rolled out this year, and some 7,87,000 5G handsets were shipped, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
Chinese tech giant Xiaomi unveiled two 5G smartphones in September, while Huawei will start selling its 5G-version MATE 30 series on Friday with prices starting at 4,999 yuan (USD 700). "Innovation in applications will be the focus of 5G's next-stage development," Xinhua quoted Hu Houkun, deputy chairman of Huawei's board of directors, as saying.
For mobile operators and related enterprises in both the upstream and downstream of the industry, enriching application scenarios will be indispensable in providing better network experience and forming a virtuous cycle for 5G businesses, Hu said.
Wang Zhiqin, deputy director of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology under the MIIT, said 5G technology will provide key infrastructure for the development of China's digital economy, and the combination of 5G with artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies will revolutionise the form of the digital economy.