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China telcos show off smart grid, new private network services

China has 66 million real 5G subscribers, according to official figures – a long way short of the 100 million claimed by operators, but also streets ahead of every other country.

In an online press conference Thursday, Wen Ku, head of the information and communication department of the MIIT, also revealed that more than 400,000 5G basestations were deployed and 86.2 million 5G devices have been shipped this year.

China Mobile and China Telecom last month reported a total of 70.2 million and 37.8 million subscribers respectively on "5G packages" – that is customers on 4G as well as 5G phones who have subscribed to low-priced 5G plans.

Racking up big numbers is not hard for Chinese telcos, but they have struggled to translate this numerical advantage into industry leadership.

So it is worth noting developments from China Telecom and China Mobile in 5G private networking this week.

China Telecom has been the central player in a smart grid project that is now ready to go commercial after a pilot scheme drastically cut faults and improved 5G energy efficiency.

The smart grid in Qingdao on the eastern seaboard was built on a slice of China Telecom's standalone 5G network for the national utility, State Grid. It is China's largest smart grid, with more than 30 basestations deployed with the help of Huawei and Shandong University.

A background paper issued by the GSMA explains that the challenge for a smart grid is to build connectivity in the "last 5km" of the distribution network, where 95% of blackouts occur. The promise is the smart grid can deliver real-time visibility into grid performance and to automate or speed up management.

The Qingdao project was able to identify and respond to faults in real time, all but eliminating failures, with the network delivering a latency of 8 milliseconds for the alert and below 50 milliseconds for the response.

Additionally, in an encouraging sign for all operators, the smart grid was able to cut basestation power consumption by 20%. By being able to smooth out the peak and off-peak energy consumption, State Grid found it could store energy during off-peak and use it to power 5G basestations.

Meanwhile, China Mobile this week unveiled its three tiers of 5G private network services – preferential, exclusive and premium.

Liu Jian, head of China Mobile's government and enterprise division, said preferential mode was equivalent to a bus lane on a national highway, exclusive was like a freeway lane and premium was akin to a railway built for high-speed trains, the website C114 reported.

He said China Mobile's standalone core network is already more than 80% deployed and should be "basically completed" in the third quarter.

China Mobile also unveiled a 5G private network operation platform to allow customers to manage devices and scheduling.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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