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China 5G Rapid Progress

The remarkable growth of China 5G technology and innovation in the international stage has demonstrated the country’s determination to become a global leader in the digital space.

Mobile technology, as an innovation enabler, has become a focused area China hopes to command, particularly after its diversion from the global norms in the 3G and 4G era.

Committing early in the standardization process will give China an edge to influence internationally and generate notable economic impact domestically.

China 5G Early Adoption 

All eyes are on China now as the country is in a leading role in the race of 5G development. The top-down national agenda that came with a series of key initiatives has provided instrumental support to create a complete ecosystem in the market – from technology R&D, equipment, network, terminals, platform, to application development.

Intense engagements from the entire value chain are developing new use cases and service platforms that may serve as international test beds for 5G innovation. China’s preparation for 5G is well underway, as it enters the third phase of 5G testing while the government has officially reserved considerable contiguous spectrum for 5G purpose.

With the global unified standard set to finalize this year, China has brought forward its timetable of the commercial launch to 2019, potentially becoming one of the first 5G-ready markets in the world.

5G opens up new possibilities for a multitude of life transforming applications – from 3D video to immersive media, autonomous vehicles and the enablement of smart cities, thanks to the ultra-high data rates, enhanced capacity and reduced latency.

It is also the key to unlock other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), therefore providing tremendous potential in China that could not be underestimated.

Nevertheless, demand will build up progressively in the domestic market as it will be limited by the near-term supply of devices, equipment and compelling applications.

Operators also will take a gradual approach in network deployment, thus implying a slower 5G take-up path than 4G. Adoption will take off as economies of scale builds up in the market. We expect 5G connections in China will reach 576 million by 2025, representing over 40% of that globally.

The promise of 5G will give telecom operators a competitive edge over the growing challenges from over the top (OTT) players. To capitalize on the new technology, they need to take essential steps from both business and technical perspectives.

The ability to offer customized connectivity to support differentiated services over the more agile and flexible virtualized network, buoyed by network slicing and mobile edge computing, will be transformational.

China 5G & Fiber Cable

However, that requires the support of substantial fiber, sophisticated cloud and analytics capabilities, and transformed support systems. After all, 5G is a convergence play, and poised to change the industry landscape.

Monetizing 5G requires new business model innovation and cross-sector partnership in the more machine centric environment. Imitating an OTT model has proven to be unsustainable as operators have different DNA against technology companies.

They should instead leverage their strengths to engage in deep service innovation. To a further extent, the need for acquiring non-core assets, technologies or capabilities to offer new and differentiated services such as the IoT will become an important driving force to industry consolidation.

While the outlook is bright, 5G will not completely change and disrupt the telecom landscape or the industries in the short term. Operators should be realistic and learn from history to avoid over-commitment.

They have to work out their strategies for 5G and move fast to deploy new services. Capitalizing on their 4G investment is important since LTE is expected to remain dominant in the fast-growing market for the next decade.