China rolls out nationwide 5G telecom services

By K J M Varma(Eds: Updating with more inputs) Beijing, Nov 1 (PTI) China's three major state-run telecom operators have unveiled their superfast 5G network across the country, as the Communist giant aims at becoming the global leader in next generation telecom technology surpassing the US and other western nations.State-owned carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom unveiled their 5G data plans on Thursday as China and the US are embroiled in a power struggle over trade and technology.The three firms in simultaneous moves unveiled their monthly 5G plans with prices ranging from 128 yuan (about Rs 1,289) to 599 yuan (Rs 6,030). Subscribers will be able to enjoy connections way faster than 4G and less expensive data per gigabyte, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.5G is the next generation cellular technology with download speeds stated to be 10 to 100 times faster than the current 4G LTE networks.The 5G networking standard is seen as critical because it can support the next generation of mobile devices in addition to new applications like driverless cars.The 5G commercial services are now available in 50 cities, including major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.Shanghai had activated 11,859 5G base stations by mid-October, which will support the 5G network coverage across the city's key outdoor areas, the report said.The three major mobile operators have already registered over 10 million 5G users before the official commercialisation launch, it said.Beijing, which is embroiled in a trade and technology war with Washington, is hoping to woo India and other countries with its 5G telecom technology. China and the US have been fighting for leadership in the technology sector in recent months, with Chinese tech giant Huawei at the centre of their power struggle.The Trump administration has blacklisted Huawei, arguing that it poses a national security risk. The US has also lobbied allies to shun the Chinese company from their 5G networks.Huawei denies this charge, and many in China see the US actions as part of its efforts to curb the rise of the world's second largest economy.According to an estimate made by the China Telecom, the country is expected to be a front-runner in the adoption of 5G services with over 170 million 5G subscribers by next year. South Korea will be in second place with a predicted 75,000 users, followed by the US with 10,000, analysts at Sanford C Bernstein said in a research note last week.The US recently blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei, citing security and espionage-related concerns, and is now persuading its allies, including India, to block the world's largest provider of networking gear and the second biggest smartphone maker, from their new and upcoming mobile networks.The Indian government has allowed Huawei to take part in the 5G trials during the India Mobile Congress held last month in New Delhi.China has been asking India to take independent and objective decision to permit Huawei 5G services in the backdrop of the US pushing for a global ban on the telecom firm over "security issues". China is expected to have over 600 million 5G subscribers by 2025, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the global total, the Xinhua reported, quoting a senior telecom official as saying.However, sceptics are doubtful about the 5G speed. They say China's powerful firewalls, which control the internet, might slow down the services.The firewalls actively block several international social media platforms like Twitter, Google and Facebook. Meanwhile, major handset makers have also forayed into the 5G technology market. As many as 18 5G smartphone varieties were rolled out this year, and some 7,87,000 5G handsets were shipped, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).Chinese tech giant Xiaomi unveiled two 5G smartphones in September, while Huawei will start selling its 5G-version MATE 30 series on Friday with prices starting at 4,999 yuan (USD 700)."Innovation in applications will be the focus of 5G's next-stage development," Xinhua quoted Hu Houkun, deputy chairman of Huawei's board of directors, as saying. For mobile operators and related enterprises in both the upstream and downstream of the industry, enriching application scenarios will be indispensable in providing better network experience and forming a virtuous cycle for 5G businesses, Hu said.Wang Zhiqin, deputy director of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology under the MIIT, said 5G technology will provide key infrastructure for the development of China's digital economy. PTI KJV SCY AKJ