China rolls out 5G services in race to narrow tech gap

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s three major state telecom operators rolled out 5G wireless technology yesterday, as the country races to narrow its technology gap with the United States (US) amid a bruising trade war.

China Mobile, the country’s largest carrier, announced its 5G services were available in 50 cities – including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen – with packages starting from CNY128 (USD18) a month. Rivals China Telecom and China Unicom are also offering services at comparable prices in major cities, according to notices on their websites.

The ultra-fast mobile Internet service – which is 100 times faster than existing 4G networks – allows consumers to download full-length films within seconds, or use apps with virtual reality.

The technology will also pave the way for driverless cars, further automation in factories, and allow users to remotely control appliances such as coffee makers and ovens via the Internet.

China is expected to be a front-runner in the adoption of 5G services with over 170 million 5G subscribers by next year, according to estimates by China Telecom.

South Korea will be in second place with a predicted 75,000 users, followed by the US with 10,000, analysts at Sanford C Bernstein said in a research note last week.

“China will promote the deep integration of new generation information technology and the real economy,” said Vice Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Chen Zhaoxiong at a technology conference yesterday.

“This involves accelerating the integration and application of 5G in industries, transportation, energy, agriculture, education and health,” Chen Zhaoxiong said, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

Beijing has been pushing for a quick rollout of the technology, and China’s state economic planner said in January that developing a 5G network was one of its “investment priorities” this year.

File photo of visitors at the Mobile World Congress 2019. PHOTO: AFP