China Telcos Rack Up 9M 5G Advance Subs

5G is yet to kick off in China but the industry juggernaut has already built up a big head of steam.

The three Chinese operators have already signed up 9 million advance orders in the past month: China Mobile has racked up 5.3 million and China Telecom and China Unicom 1.8 million each, according to Beijing News.

The operators haven't set a date for the start of service, but will reportedly commence simultaneously, most likely later this month.

Monthly prices for each start at around 200 Chinese yuan ($28), but, in response to complaints that even this was too expensive, they have introduced a discount price of RMB140 ($19) to RMB160 ($22) for the first six months.

They are offering small price cuts on a limited range of phones, including the Samsung Note 10+5G, the Xiaomi 9 Pro 5G and China Mobile's own X1.

Between them the telcos have said they will build 130,000 basestations by year-end -- more than the rest of the world combined.

But to some government officials that is not fast enough and they are coming up with incentives to further accelerate 5G rollout.

Most notably, the Shenzhen city government is offering to pay operators RMB10,000 ($1,398) for every standalone 5G basestation deployed, with a maximum payout of RMB150 million ($20.9 million).

Its 5G plan issued last month promises support for site acquisition and subsidies for basestation electricity costs.

The tech-dominated city, home to Huawei, ZTE and Tencent, aims to install 15,000 5G basestations by the end of 2019 and 45,000 by next August.

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Shenzhen is not unique. Almost every city or provincial government has a 5G plan; and while many are light on specifics, some reveal big ambitions.

For example, the government of Zhejiang, the wealthy province near Shanghai, expects to have 30,000 basestations next year.

It aims to complete its 5G rollout by 2022, by which time its coverage will "lead the country."

The north-west province of Shanxi -- not known for its advanced tech industries -- has also made 5G a priority.

It has benchmarked its 5G rollout against other provinces and, like Zhejiang, has set a target of 30,000 basestations by 2022.

It is also offering subsidies for basestation power costs and help in site selection.

These provincial officials are staking a good deal in 5G development. In the wake of Shenzhen's aggressive offer, are we about to see a 5G bidding war?

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, Light Reading

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