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China's government agencies seek even more mobile coverage

Chinese government agencies aim to increase mobile coverage in the country, which currently has 9 million basestations.

Robert Clark

January 11, 2024

2 Min Read
Aerial photo of a 5G basestation being installed in China
Despite a gargantuan 5G rollout, China says more work is needed to expand coverage.(Source: Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo)

Chinese operators have built some 9 million 4G and 5G basestations, but government agencies are demanding more.

Eleven government bodies have together called for an upgrade of the 4G and 5G networks in key locations over the next two years. They are targeting an average mobile downlink of at least 220 Mbit/s and uplink of 45 Mbit/s, with extended coverage on highways, railways and other important sites by the end of next year.

In a notice issued on December 27, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said the government aims to improve network coverage and performance in 11 key scenarios including government service centers, cultural tourist spots, hospitals, universities, urban metro lines and transport hubs.

"This action will optimize 4G and 5G coverage through base station construction optimization to meet the digital transformation needs of key industries," it said.

The document, officially dubbed a "notice," is more a wish list than an instruction to meet specific targets. Such inter-departmental demands are commonly issued, with last year's batch including a call for expanded network co-construction and another to grow the national computing infrastructure.

Large coverage gaps

As far as anyone knows operators are never measured against these recommendations. However, the documents reveal some of the thinking of China's senior officials and, in this case, also tell us that even the gargantuan domestic 5G rollout suffers from large coverage gaps.

Related:Partner Report - 5G in South-Eastern Asia - Essential insights into the future of 5G across the region.

Similar notices are often quite vague, too. While this most recent one sets targets for coverage and performance, it does not indicate the starting point numbers, which are likely considered a state secret.

The notice calls for improvements in two stages. By end-2024 it expects "deep" mobile coverage in 80,000 designated locations, with continuous coverage on 25,000km of railways, 350,000km of highways, and 150 urban subway lines.

By end-2025 this is to increase to 120,000 locations, 30,000km of railway lines, 500,000 highway kilometers and 200 subway lines. At least 90% of the network should deliver downlink speeds of 220 Mbit/s and average uplink speeds of 45 Mbit/s.

According to the latest Speedtest global index, China ranks fourth in mobile broadband with a median download speed of 162 Mbit/s and upload of 29 Mbit/s.

Besides the MIIT, government agencies including peak planning body NDRC, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are signatories to the document.

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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