Why China is at the forefront of 5G technology

According to former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, “China will in fact be a hegemonic power” if the US does not thwart these five things; and the rollout of fifth generation mobile technology—known as “5G” is on the top of that list.

Chinese telecommunication equipment providers, especially those involved in developing the 5G technology, such as Huawei and ZTE, have become the casualties in the recent US-China trade war. Meanwhile, how well has the 5G technology been developed in China so far? Will Bannon’s prediction come true sooner rather than later? Let’s have a look.

5G is expected to usher in an Internet revolution, since the peak rate of communication speed can be more than 10 times faster than that of a 4G network, making next-generation mobile communication technology fast enough for applications like AR, VR, the Internet of Things and smart driving.

China started the third phase of 5G technology research and development tests as early as last November, as the country accelerated steps to gain a lead in the race towards commercialization of this next-generation communication technology.

In February, Huawei launched its full range of 5G end-to-end product solutions at the 2018 World Mobile World Congress; and two months later, China’s three major telecom operators— China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom, have won government approval to pilot 5G networks in multiple cities across the country.

China Unicom will pilot 5G-technology in 16 cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Guiyang and Zhengzhou. China Mobile will launch offline testing in five cities in eastern and southern China, with each city installed with more than 100 5G stations, as well as 5G application demonstrations in 12 cities. China Telecom has confirmed it will pilot 5G-technology in Xiong’an, Shanghai, Suzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Lanzhou, and plans to expand the network to 6 more cities.

Meanwhile, China Unicom also confirmed its 2G services were being streamlined with a dwindling number of base stations so as to provide better, faster Internet access.

Despite the co-existence of 2G, 3G and 4G networks in China, an insider said 2G networks are fading, and 3G networks are also set to decline, while 4G networks are the present norm and 5G, the future.

On April 23, the first 5G test network was launched in Chongqing, as another step towards 5G commercialization in China.

Moreover, China is expected to release its first 5G mobile phone during the second half of 2019, said Wen Ku, director of the telecom development department at China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

At the First Digital China Summit in Fuzhou on April 22, Wen noted that China was home to 1.03 billion 4G net users in 2017, and a universal standard of 5G technology will be established in the future.

Wen said China is one of the leading countries of 5G development, and it has established cooperation structures with Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea on both government and industry levels.

The 5G technology, which might be a new turning point for the smartphone industry, is already a strategic highland that many mobile phone manufacturers are fighting for. The major mobile phone brands in China are stepping up their efforts in the development of 5G mobile phones, and are looking forward to seizing the opportunities in the new era.

For example, Huawei announced that it will release the first mobile phone, which supports the 5G network, in the second half of 2019. OPPO and vivo plan to launch its 5G smartphones in 2020. However, the recent US ban on the sale of components and software to ZTE could affect the survival of the company, said ZTE.

At this industry turning point, having the core technologies of core components and leading technology development are crucial for phone makers. Only the strong capacity of research and development and independent intellectual property rights can place those Chinese brands in an invincible position.

(Top photo from unsplash.com)

Y.R. Zhao
Y.R. Zhao

Zhao is our columnist. She previously worked at China Daily, and she was the chief Southeast Asia correspondent while living in Bangkok. She holds two master’s degrees from the University of Sydney and Australian National University. She is a foodie and avid marathoner. She believes technology will change our lives and that China is leading the trend.

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