Friday, Nov 1 was a watershed moment for 5G as it marked about the first year of implementation and official launch of the 50th commercial 5G network according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). This was reached by the switch on of services in China where China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom all went live on Friday. In addition, China Mobile said it has already registered more than 10 million 5G subscribers!
As of the end of October 2019, GSA has identified 328 operators in 109 countries that have announced that they are investing in 5G. In addition, a total of 69 operators have announced that they had deployed 3GPP compliant 5G technology in their networks, among which:
- 39 operators having launched 3GPP-compliant 5G mobile services (36 full launches, 3 limited availability launches)
- 29 operators had launched 3GPP-compliant 5G FWA or home broadband services (19 full launches, 10 limited availability launches)
Mobile World live reported that GSMA Intelligence’s Head of Research, Tim Hatt, hailed the China move as a “watershed moment” for the industry: “China will have 36 per cent of its mobile customer base on 5G by 2025. Because of its huge population this translates into 600 million subscribers – roughly 40 per cent of the entire global 5G market by that time. Expect this to act as an increasing force of gravity for a domestic supporting ecosystem of handset manufacturers, chip makers, network equipment suppliers and content producers that reduces reliance on foreign companies.”
Hatt also pointed to the impact the deployment will have on China’s global ambitions. “5G is part of a wider set of advanced technologies – including AI, machine learning and edge computing – that have become strategically important levers in the transformation to digital economies, be those manufacturing or service-based,” he noted. “China is staking its claim to be at the forefront of this transition over the next 10 years, commanding both economic and geopolitical influence.”
According to the Washington Post, the Chinese government has embarked on a centrally planned push to roll out the technology on a commercial basis and give it an unassailable lead in the global race to install 5G wireless networks. “The commercialization of 5G technology is a great measure of [President] Xi Jinping's strategic aim of turning China into a cyber power, as well as an important milestone in China’s information communication industry development,” said Wang Xiaochu, president of China Unicom. Xi has described the world as on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution, one characterized by advances in information technology and artificial intelligence, analysts at Trivium China, a consultancy, wrote in a research note this week.
China is forecast to spend between $130 billion and $217 billion on 5G between 2020 and 2025, according to a study by the state-run China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. Gartner forecasts that in 2020, worldwide 5G wireless network infrastructure revenue will reach $4.2 billion, an 89% increase from 2019 revenue of $2.2 billion.