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China embraces 5G as smartphone shipments soar

Chinese subscribers are flocking to buy expensive new 5G smartphones, according to the latest information released by the Chinese government.

In 2021, 5G phone shipments in China reached over 266 million units, which is apparently a 63.5% increase on the previous year. Data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) also showed that 5G accounted for 75.9% of total mobile phone shipments.

In December 2021 alone, domestic 5G phone shipments reached 27.1 million and represented 81.3% of the total figure.

Get your phone out: New data shows that 5G phone shipments in China reached over 266 million units in 2021.  (Source: zhang kaiyv on Unsplash)
Get your phone out: New data shows that 5G phone shipments in China reached over 266 million units in 2021.
(Source: zhang kaiyv on Unsplash)

The total number of mobile phone shipments reached 350.7 million in 2021, an increase of 13.9% compared to 2020. In December, shipments grew by 25.6% to 33.4 million. Most of the phones now being shipped are smartphones, which increased by 15.9% year-on-year to 342.8 million.

CAICT also pointed to the rising popularity of local brands – which are also likely to be significantly cheaper than smartphones produced by international manufacturers.

In 2021, local brands accounted for 303.6 million or 86.6% of total shipments. Local brands also released 438 new models, accounting for 90.7% of all new mobile phones introduced to the market.

Rise and fall

The report provides further evidence of China's 5G success story, although the role of the national government is playing a key role here.

Indeed, Light Reading has already reported on how Beijing has made sure that the entire industry is on board with its 5G ambitions.


Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on
Light Reading.


In a December report, IDC said China is forecast to be the largest market for 5G smartphones in 2021 with 46.9% of shipments, followed by the United States at 16.1% and Asia-Pacific and Japan at 12.8%.

However, IDC noted that China's share is expected to drop to 30.5% by 2025 as other regions ramp up their 5G networks and connectivity.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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