State-owned telecoms operators in China will switch on their 5G networks for the first time on Friday as Beijing aims to catch up with the US.
China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom will launch 5G services on Friday with prices starting from 128 yuan per month, equivalent to approximately $18/month.
Beijing initially planned to launch 5G services early next year but have accelerated their plans amid increased trade tensions with the US.
As of Friday, China will have the largest commercially-operating 5G network in the world. The latest generation network will improve speeds and reliability for consumers while allowing businesses to pursue new use cases such as driverless cars.
Chris Lane, and other analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday:
“While some other countries launched 5G services earlier this year, China will have the largest commercial operating 5G network in the world on Friday.
The scale of its network and the price of its 5G services will have a pivotal impact throughout the supply chain.”
Over 50,000 5G base stations are planned to be installed by the end of 2019. Most of the major cities – including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou – already have full 5G coverage.
Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei has found itself in the crossfire between the US and China, with the former claiming the company is controlled by Beijing and poses a national security threat. The US has been strongly pressuring its allies to ban Huawei's 5G gear from their own national rollouts.
Huawei is expecting some relief from its recent troubles, and an uptick in revenue, as a result of China's 5G rollout both through the sale of infrastructure equipment and supporting consumer devices such as smartphones.
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