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Tibet's $500M 5G network reaches coverage milestone

Tibet, a remote mountainous region, has 2.3 million 5G users and penetration rate of 62%.

Robert Clark

January 24, 2024

2 Min Read

China's massive 5G rollout has officially reached every district of remote Tibet, according to official media.

Communist party newspaper People's Daily says the completion of a 5G basestation in Gumu Township, 1,100 km northwest of Lhasa, on September 30, meant the service was now available in "every town and village" in Tibet.

This doesn't mean the network is present in every village and hamlet but instead refers to every "administrative village," a local government layer that covers multiple towns and can be up to several hundred square kilometers in size. Still, and even allowing for the fact that Tibet is one of China's most active military districts, it is a notable milestone for a low-income region with a population density of 0.3 people per square km – one of the sparsest in the world.

The numbers also provide a rare glimpse inside a remote region that is effectively off-limits to foreigners except those on government-approved tours. Tibet now has 2.27 million 5G "package" services, equivalent to a 62% penetration rate in a population of 3.65 million, but well short of the national rate of 96%.

More than 10,000 basestations

Operators have invested 3.68 billion Chinese yuan (US$518 million) and built 10,067 5G basestations for the rollout, People's Daily says. It is not known how much of the population the network covers, however. China mobile networks are measured by number of basestations rather than population coverage, which is regarded as a state secret.

Most of the rural coverage is likely provided by the China Mobile-China Broadnet network sharing partnership using Broadnet's 700MHz spectrum, much better suited to the vast distances across the grasslands than the mid-range spectrum used in urban rollouts. Construction was due to complete at the end of last year.

Rural coverage is also critical because it is home to 63% of the population, in contrast to the nationwide distribution, where just one-third lives in the countryside.

"The speed and improvement of communication networks are promoting the further transformation and upgrading of the development of snow-covered plateaus," the People's Daily said.

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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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