tech

China to launch the world’s largest 5G mobile phone network

More than 10 million users in China have pre-registered for the new 5G service.

China will quickly become the largest 5G provider by virtue of its huge population and investment by the companies.
China will quickly become the largest 5G provider by virtue of its huge population and investment by the companies. (REUTERS)

China's three state-owned wireless carriers will announce the introduction of 5G mobile phone services Thursday, a milestone in the country's push to become a technology power even as it remains locked in a trade war with the US.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will unveil the service debuts at a technology exhibition in Beijing Thursday, a spokesman for the ministry said. Carriers will launch 5G commercially November 1, the Beijing News reported last week.

The country's three state-owned carriers had planned to introduce the services next year, then accelerated the rollout just as the US dug in on a boycott of China-based 5G equipment supplier and technology giant Huawei Technologies Co. Operators in the US have introduced the high-speed networks to parts of some cities, without using Huawei gear, and South Korea debuted its version in April, though China will quickly become the largest provider by virtue of its huge population and investment by the companies.

"While some other countries launched 5G services earlier this year, China will have the largest commercial operating 5G network in the world on Friday," Chris Lane and other analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein. wrote in a note to clients Wednesday. "The scale of its network and the price of its 5G services will have a pivotal impact throughout the supply chain."

Subscribers in China -- more than 10 million have pre-registered to take the service -- will have access to faster videos and games, more virtual reality applications and improved performance for mobile videoconferencing.

China Mobile Ltd., the largest carrier, will start the service at between 128 yuan ($18) and 598 yuan a month, with packages for the heaviest users priced similar to 4G plans, according to Bernstein. The carrier's 4G plans start at 38 yuan a month and go up to 588 yuan. The two smaller carriers, China Telecom Corp. and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. will offer packages at comparable rates.

The largest cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen will get full coverage first. The three operators have projected a combined capital spending of 302 billion yuan this year.

China's scale advantage is especially important when the U.S. has campaigned against other countries using equipment from Huawei, which it accuses of posing a security threat. Despite the U.S. pressure, Huawei said in July that it had signed more than 60 commercial contracts to supply 5G networks around the world, including at least 28 in Europe.

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