China Mobile's biggest task now is building new digital infrastructure
China Mobile today has gone way beyond the traditional telco role of building and operating mobile or fixed networks.
As the world's largest telco by subscribers and the biggest state-owned operator under a government with vaulting hi-tech ambitions, China Mobile's prime task now is to lead the development of new digital infrastructure.
This may not be new, but it was laid out very clearly at the company's 'global partner' conference on the weekend, an annual event where leaders and government officials come to talk about its outlook and priorities.
China Mobile Group chairman Yang Jie said its job is to serve national development and "support the construction of a strong network country, a digital China, and a smart society."
Its biggest current projects are the two related schemes of the national computing network, aimed at growing computing power to drive the digital economy, and the 'East-West' project, in which data from the advanced economic zones on the eastern seaboard is funneled to new cloud and data center sites in the low-cost west.
Neither China Mobile nor government officials shared fresh details about these at the forum.
But in its first half result in August, the company described the progress of what it calls its computing force network (CFN).
China Mobile had developed a "new integrated digital information infrastructure built on 5G, CFN and smart mid-end platform," it said.
It had "implemented the national strategy of channeling more computing resources from the east to the west and transformed our CFN from a conceptual prototype to an industrial practice."
Computing network a major investment target
China Mobile says it trialed some metaverse applications on the CFN during the Beijing Winter Olympics and is now testing around a dozen new technologies across 30 scenarios.
It also has launched cloud availability zones in China's three most important economic nodes – in the Greater Bay Area near Hong Kong, the Yangtze River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region.
Gao Wen, a senior member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the development of China's computing power network meant that in a few years it would be able to provide on-tap computing resources.
"This year is the first year of computing power consumption," he said, pointing out that the big computing and data center projects had quite quickly become major investment targets.
In a speech delivered in China Mobile's new metaverse space, Yang Jie said the global economy and the broader society were being driven by a brace of new technology trends, such as the emergence of massive scale data sets and the digitization of the energy industry.
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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading