By Charles F Moreira, Editor
After having faced a slew of problems such as sanctions against telecommunications company Huawei, fear uncertainty and doubt created over alleged national security threats from its 5G cellular communications equipment in the United States, some European Union countries and some other countries, as well as fear, uncertainty and doubt expressed over the dangers to health from exposure to 5G cellular signals, three of China’s leading cellular service operators launched 5G service in 50 cities across China on 31 October 2019, including in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzen.
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, said the municipal administration of communications Thursday.
The three major mobile cellular operators had deployed about 86,000 5G base stations and had already registered over 10 million 5G subscribers before this official launch.
The three operations deployed about 86,000 5G base stations before the launch the three had secured 870,000 5G subscribers as of 20 November 2019. These numbers are expected to exceed 200 million by 2020, according to Huawei, and according to Sihan Bo Chen, head of GSMA (GSM Association) Greater China, China expects to have over 600 million 5G subscribers by 2025, or 40% world total.
In addition, the branches of China’s major telecommunications operators in central China’s Hubei Province announced the launch of commercial 5G applications in the province.
Wuhan City, the capital of Hubei, is expected to have 10,000 5G base stations by the end of 2019, said Song Qizhu, head of Hubei Provincial Communication Administration.
China Telecom has established a 5G network covering airports, railway stations and other areas in the city, which will also help boost the digital and intelligent transformation of the industries with 5G technologies, said Li Hongbo, general manager of the company’s Hubei branch.
China Mobile Hubei Branch has activated 1,580 5G base stations in the city as of mid-October, achieving the 5G coverage of universities, transportation hubs and other densely populated areas, according to the branch.
At the same time, the three – i.e. China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom announced their monthly 5G plans with prices ranging from 128 yuan (about 18 U.S. dollars) to 599 yuan (RM75.86 – RM355.00), which according to Xinhua, will enable subscribers to enjoy speeds way faster than 4G at lower cost per gigabyte.
For instance, China Unicom’s 129 yuan (RM76.45) service plan offers up to 500Mbps speed and comes with a 30GB data quota and 500 minutes of talk time, whilst its 599 yuan offers up to 1Gbps speed, with 300 GB data quota and 3,000 minutes talk time.
Meanwhile, major handset makers had rolled out some eighteen 5G smartphone varieties in first three quarters of 2019 and some 787,000 5G handsets some 787,000 5G handsets were shipped, according to a research institute with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
China’s tech giant Xiaomi unveiled two 5G smartphones in late September, while Huawei will start selling its 5G-version MATE 30 series on 1 November 2019 starting at 4,999 yuan (RM2,963).
MORE THAN JUST SPEED
However, beyond blazing speed increase of 5G compared to 4G and the slew of 5G devices launched, are the various applications which 5G will enable.
Whilst blogger Jie Xin believes that superfast 5G speeds will enable more certainties in the making of video blogs and online streaming, however he said that, “The differences between 4G and 5G are not that remarkable on many apps” and “I’m waiting for the arrival of a ‘killer app’ for 5G”.
Beside streaming videos and gaming, when China officially approved 5G commercial services on June 6 2019, analysts saw it as the beginning of a smart new era as the application of 5G will help connect more things, services and market players.
Wang Zhiqin, deputy director of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology under the MIIT, said that 5G technology will provide a 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.
In part 2, we will discuss more on 2019 World 5G Convention in Beijing