China is well on the track to reach its goal of building 500,000 5G base stations this year with more than 480,000 – or 96 per cent of the annual target – already completed, as the world’s second-largest economy doubles down on efforts to boost growth amid the coronavirus pandemic, including through 5G and data centres.
There are about 100 million devices connected to 5G networks in mainland China, according to Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) director Wen Ku, who provided the updated numbers at a conference in Beijing last week.
At the same event, MIIT minister Xiao Yaqing also said there were more than 60 million 5G users in the country, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency.
With peak data rates up to 100 times faster than what current 4G networks provide, 5G has been hyped as “the connective tissue” for the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous cars, smart cities and other new mobile applications, establishing the backbone for the industrial internet.
China is rushing to roll out the next-generation wireless network as it battles with the US for global dominance in cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G mobile technology, and IoT, all of which are considered necessary tools and abilities to compete in the global economy.
Last month, Shenzhen’s mayor said the southern Chinese tech hub was the first to achieve “full coverage” of a stand-alone 5G network, which doesn’t rely on existing 4G infrastructure. However, the city did not specify what it meant by full coverage or whether people in even the remotest areas within the city limits can now expect a 5G signal to reach them.
As Chinese vendors such as Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo double down on efforts to increase their domestic market share, prices of low-to-medium-end 5G phones are expected to drop to around 1,000 yuan (US$143). In comparison, 5G-enabled phones under Xiaomi’s budget Redmi series currently start at 1,599 yuan.
From January to June this year, 119 out of 197 new smartphone models released in China were 5G phones, according to the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT), a research institute under MIIT. Shipments for 5G-enabled phones accounted for 45 per cent of the country’s total smartphone shipments, CAICT added in a report.