China Mobile is keen on the possibilities of 5G enterprise -- but not with private networks.
Zhang Tongxu, head of the China Mobile Research Institute, said the telco believes the biggest value of 5G for operators will derive from verticals -- but he dismisses leasing capacity or setting aside spectrum as practices adopted by "some operators" in the Europe and the US.
"We believe that using new technologies through operator public networks still provides a superior service to various industries. For example, [it means] guaranteed speed, guaranteed reliability and so on," he said.
Zhang said that public networks can ensure more efficient spectrum utilization and "achieve 5G leadership" for China.
"For industry verticals, it can reduce costs and improve performance," he added.
His remarks to the Wireless China Summit earlier this month are another sign of telcos pushing back against enterprise encroachment into one of the most promising 5G segments.
Earlier this week Vodafone enterprise policy chief Robert MacDougall assailed Germany for setting aside 100MHz of spectrum for industry.
Although Zhang did not spell it out, China Mobile's concern is broader than just spectrum. Ownership and control of telecom infrastructure is tightly held by the Chinese state and this is unlikely to change for 5G. From this perspective, 5G network slicing looks an attractive option.
However, Zhang acknowledged that many industries, as well as operators, "have expressed strong interest in 5G, and hope to obtain dedicated spectrum resources."
At the same time, he said operators' plans to offer network resources "through network slicing and other means" had generated a lot of discussion.
Zhang said China Mobile had already built a track record in working with verticals for 5G in China: It had founded a 5G joint innovation center, partnered with more than 500 companies and launched hundreds of vertical industry solutions.
Meanwhile, when it comes to actually deploying enterprise services, China Mobile appears to be banking on the 4.9GHz band.
It issued contracts two weeks ago for trial production of pRRUs (pico remote radio units) and MAUs (media access units) to H3C and Rujie Networks in 4.9GHz.
Its nationwide network is being deployed in 2.6GHz but its additional spectrum in the higher band is better suited to the largely indoor requirements of industry.
H3C makes an attractive partner because of its existing enterprise base, serving education, medical care, finance, government and other verticals.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading