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Battle of 5G phones heats up in China

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The 5G race heats up, fueled by the recent Huawei ban by the US. AFP

Battle of 5G phones heats up in China

The battle of China’s 5G smartphone market has intensified with Huawei Technologies Co’s domestic unveiling of its first commercial model powered by fifth-generation technology on Friday.

Mate 20X is the first 5G smartphone model that has been approved by China’s telecom industry regulator to connect to the network. It was approved in late-June, followed by a 5G model by its rival ZTE Corp that was approved this month. ZTE Corp on Tuesday said its 5G smartphone was available to order domestically.

Analysts said the Huawei move is part of the tech giant’s broader push to quickly commercialise the superfast technology and it highlights the stiff competition as companies scramble to offer the cutting-edge gadgets.

He Gang, president of Huawei’s consumer business group, said Mate 20X is the world’s first model to support both stand-alone and non-stand-alone 5G networks, signifying wider use scenarios than rival products that support only non-stand-alone 5G networks. Non-stand-alone networks still rely on existing 4G infrastructure for some functions.

Ma Xin, an analyst at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, said the peak download speed of Huawei’s 5G model can hit 1,850 megabits per second in lab tests, the fastest speed reported so far.

It also performs very well in supporting cloud gaming on smartphones, allowing consumers to play high-definition, sophisticated games requiring big computing capability, traditionally available only on personal computers, Ma said.

Mate 20X comes with a 7.2-inch screen perfect for gamers and entertainment bingers, Huawei said. The model is priced at 6,199 yuan ($900) in China, far lower than industry experts’ forecasts, which held that the first 5G models would run about 10,000 yuan due to high production costs.

Huawei has strong capabilities in developing in-house chips and integrating industrial resources, allowing the Shenzhen-based company to significantly lower the price, He said.

“Our price will set the tone for 5G smartphones in the China market. I believe, in the second half of this year, flagship smartphones of most smartphone companies will be 5G-enabled, which will drive the price to quickly move closer to that of 4G products,” He said.

ZTE’s 5G smartphone starts at 4,999 yuan, but analysts said its model supports only non-stand-alone networks. Smartphone makers Oppo and Vivo are also scheduled to release their 5G models in China in the third quarter.

Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, said smartphone vendors are adopting an aggressive pricing strategy to appeal to early adopters of 5G and popularise its use.

Shipments of 5G smartphones are expected to hit 6.7 million units globally this year, according to market research company International Data Corp. CHINA DAILY