China's three state telecoms rolled-out their 5G mobile phone services on Nov. 1st, marking a key step in China’s plans to become a technology superpower. The three companies, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom announced in their stores, and online and broadcast media and through various digital channels that 5G plans are now available and that consumers nationwide can now access ultra-fast mobile internet services.
Prices for the new 5G services are being priced as low as $18 USD (128 CNY) per month and the projections for the three companies is that more than 10 million consumers are expected to sign-up for the new services by the end of the year.
The Chinese-government had originally planned for the 5G services rollout in 2020, but because of the US-China Trade War, the government decided to speed up the launch of the services to this month, so that the three-telecom companies can launch similar 5G services in other countries that China is cooperating with.
5G is an ultra-fast internet service that will support a variety of new services for consumers and business, from video streaming to autonomous driving. Projections from the Chinese mobile operators are that 5G will follow a more gradual path and over a longer timeframe than 4G, roughly seven years, from 2018 to 2025, and that from launch, the forecast is that Chinese 5G connections will scale rapidly over time.
GSMA, an industry group, estimates 5G connections in China will reach 460 million by 2025, while consulting firm Ernst & Young forecasts 576 million by then. Another researcher, CCS Insight, predicts 1 billion 5G users worldwide by 2023, with more than half in China
One U.S. technology expert was quoted as saying that, "China now has the largest commercial operating 5G network in the world, and the scale of its network and the price of its 5G services will have a pivotal impact throughout the world."
In announcing the official “launch” of services, the government also said that it expected that the three telecom companies would install a minimum of 50,000 5G base stations across 50 Chinese cities by the end of this year. These 50 cities do not include the major cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai, which are already covered by 5G networks.
The launch of the new 5G services is expected to have a major impact on Chinese phone manufacturers who are expecting the new 5G services to spur demand for their new phone models.
As an example, smartphone marker Xiaomi said in October that it has plans to launch more than 10 different 5G smartphone models in 2020, even though there is concern that consumers will immediately stop buying 4G model phones.