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China ushers in 5G commercial service era

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A China Telecom worker shows the difference in download speeds of cellphones using 4G and 5G services (left) and the difference in upload speeds (right) at an outlet in Beijing on Thursday. SHEN BOHAN/XINHUA NEWS AGENCY

China ushers in 5G commercial service era

China officially kicked off commercialisation of 5G services on Thursday, with the nation's big three telecom operators rolling out their 5G data plans.

The move means consumers can now pay to access superfast 5G speeds as more than 86,000 5G base stations have already entered service in China, covering 50 cities nationwide.

The move is also part of the latest push to accelerate the rollout of a sound digital infrastructure to fuel high-quality economic growth.

Chen Zhaoxiong, vice-minister of industry and information technology, the nation's top industry regulator, said China has been working hard to extend 5G coverage. By the end of this year, more than 130,000 5G base stations will be activated to support the network, yielding one of the world's largest 5G deployments.

The big three telecom operators – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – for the first time chose to also price tariffs by internet speed rather than simply by data allowance alone. Monthly rates will now be variable and tied to speed and data.

Lyu Tingjie, a communications professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said although the monthly prices for basic 5G data plans are far higher than 4G equivalents, the price per gigabyte for 5G is lower. With 5G networks extending to more regions, 5G data bundles will become more affordable.

China granted licences to telecom carriers for commercial 5G service in June. It is not the first country to commercialise the superfast wireless technology, which can enable downloading of 8GB movies in seconds and make self-driving vehicles and remote surgeries a reality. South Korea, the US, the UK and other countries rolled out 5G networks months ago.

But China leads the world in the scale and diversity of 5G services, with individual consumers and enterprises showing mounting enthusiasm for the new technology, said Wang Zhiqin, deputy director of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank.

In September alone, about 497,000 China-made 5G smartphones were purchased by retailers, the think tank said, beating expectations.

The three telecom operators have also pushed 5G preregistration with generous discounts and free 5G data allowances. These promotional strategies managed to attract interest from more than 10 million subscribers after the National Day holiday last month.

"China will embark on large-scale 5G network construction next year. This will further the use of the cutting-edge technology in more traditional sectors and lay a sound digital infrastructure for manufacturing upgrades," Wang said.

Ding Yun, president of Huawei Technologies Co's carrier business group, said the company in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, is ready to help China build the best 5G network possible by fully tapping into its technological prowess.

Qualcomm China chairman Frank Meng said the US chip giant is pleased to join hands with industry partners to unveil the 5G era in China.

"Currently, we have worked with partners to launch multiple 5G smartphones and bring the 5G experience within reach. Moving forward, we will continue to join forces to bring diverse 5G-powered, innovative applications to more consumers and industries," Meng added.

China is set to become the world's largest 5G market by 2025, with 460 million 5G users, according to a forecast by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, a global telecom association.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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