So much is said about 5G and Chinese vendors that we often forget to look at China as a 5G market. Regardless of the globally diverging views on vendors, there is something on which we should all agree, and that is the importance of learning from markets that are pioneering technologies. As China embarks on the world’s most extensive 5G SA (5G standalone) deployment, we should look to learn from its success and best practices in anticipation of broader global deployments.
Some countries excel in technology, some countries excel in manufacturing, but China excels in both. From its conception, 5G sits at the intersection between industries and telecommunications, and China’s expertise and scale in both will provide a fertile ground for experimentation and implementation.
Manufacturing is already the epicenter of all 5G activities outside the consumer segment. According to Omdia’s 5G Enterprise Innovation Tracker, which tracks 5G announcements by public and private enterprise, the manufacturing sector accounts for 35% of all 5G deployments globally, followed by transportation and logistics and energy and mining. It is not a coincidence that China, the world’s largest manufacturer, accounting for roughly 30% of global output, is also determined to become the world’s leader in 5G deployments.
Building an ecosystem of experienced players
While China is already the acknowledged global leader in manufacturing, the global race for 5G has just begun, and it seems that China is already set to take a head start. At a time when many countries are taking a 5G pause, mainly because of COVID-19-related spectrum auction delays, China is bucking the trend. Chinese communications service providers (CSPs) had collectively already deployed 130,000 5G base stations in 2019, while China Mobile has gone ahead with the so-called “phase 2” of network deployment, which aims to have a total of 300,000 5G base stations by the end of 2020.
Collectively, the three Chinese operators—China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom—are expected to deploy 600,000 5G base stations by the end of 2020, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Chinese operators have huge ambitions for 5G in 2020: China Mobile alone is targeting 70 million 5G subscriptions by year-end.
The rate of consumer adoption of 5G is also very encouraging: according to China Mobile, the company already had 55.6 million 5G subscriptions by the end of May 2020, while China Telecom reached in excess of 30 million 5G subscriptions in the same period.
Scale is building up rapidly—China Mobile is the world’s largest operator with 1 billion subscriptions—but what matters the most is how 5G is evolving in China. All Chinese operators are planning to go ahead with 5G SA in 2020. China Mobile aims to provide 5G SA in 12 provinces, giving it the largest 5G SA network in the world once the project is completed.
China will be the first country to have scale in 5G SA. Besides the efficiency gains introduced by 5G SA, all eyes are (or should be) on the use cases and how Chinese operators and Chinese manufacturers will use the technology for specific use cases.
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— Dario Talmesio, Research Director, Service Providers Strategy & Regulation, Omdia
This content is sponsored by ZTE.