April 10, 2020

'China Cements Its Position as a Global Leader in 5G,' Says GSMA Report

"2019 was a pivotal year for the Chinese mobile industry," according to a report, The Mobile Economy China 2020, authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research and consulting arm of the GSMA, a UK-based trade organization. "The country was one of the first globally to launch 5G services. With operators and enterprises forging ahead in the development of 5G services, and growing consumer excitement, China has cemented its position as a global leader in 5G."

While 4G is "the dominant mobile technology across China, accounting for more than 80% of total connections (excluding licensed cellular IoT) ... 4G's share will peak in 2020 (at 82%) as 5G grows significantly." The report, available in English and Chinese, adds that 70% of global 5G connections in 2020 will come from China.

In explaining on how enterprises are taking tentative steps into the 5G era, the report says:
Companies across a range of verticals (such as manufacturing, power generation and aerospace) are evaluating their options for digitizing product assembly and general operations management. This presents an opportunity for operators that can offer 5G with complementary infrastructure for low-latency services (such as data centers close to the edge) and analytics. However, while a majority of enterprises recognize the benefits of speed gains brought about by 5G, other improvements (such as network slicing, edge computing and low-latency services) are not widely appreciated, with many believing 4G is 'good enough.' China is a clear exception in this regard: early partnerships and trials from local operators have paid dividends, as evidenced by the widespread intent among companies in the country's industrial sector to use 5G.
On the topic of edge computing, which Wikipedia defines as "a distributed computing paradigm which brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth," the report suggests "[e]dge computing is moving from concept to early-stage deployments as new use cases demand a more decentralized approach to computing and networking than a traditional, fully cloud-based model. Driven by the government's ambition to make China a global leader of new technologies and Industry 4.0, the country's ecosystem is looking to spearhead the development of edge computing."

As reflected in the image the right, edge computing will facilitate the ramp-up of various industries such as autonomous vehicles, gaming and e-sports.

Regarding mobile delivering social impact, the report says that "[w]ith 1.2 billion unique subscribers across China, and nearly 1.5 billion people covered by a mobile network, mobile is increasingly being used to access an array of life-enhancing services that contribute to and catalyze the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

Moreover, "In China, SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) remains the most impacted goal: 99% of the population are covered by 4G networks, underscoring mobile’s role in providing critical infrastructure to spur innovation as well as inclusive and sustainable development. Mobile is also playing a key role in providing increased access to quality education (SDG 4), while helping reduce inequalities (SDG 10)."

Lastly, enacting effective policies will be essential to creating a thriving 5G future in China. "The success of 5G heavily relies on government support for timely access to the right amount and type of affordable spectrum, and under the right conditions," the report explains. "5G will need a comprehensive range of spectrum across sub-1 GHz, 1–6 GHz and above 6 GHz to satisfy the requirements of 5G services in the future. The lower- and mid-frequency ranges are key to improving 5G coverage, speed and latency compared to 4G, while spectrum above 24 GHz – mmWave spectrum – will be a critical component to enable super high speeds and ultra-low-latency applications."

What is more, "Since mmWave spectrum will play a vital role in the future success of 5G in China, particularly in the manufacturing sector, the GSMA recommends the following policy considerations:

  • "Continue to provide policy incentives by reducing frequency utilization fees for mmWave spectrum similar to those for the 2.6, 3.4–3.6 and 4.8–5.0 GHz bands.
  • "Allocate large and contiguous blocks of spectrum in the mmWave bands where possible – around 1 GHz per operator.
  • "Avoid setting aside spectrum for verticals in priority mmWave bands (e.g. 26 and 40 GHz). Sharing approaches such as leasing are better options where verticals require access to spectrum."

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence
How is your business preparing to take advantage of the opportunities presented with the rollout of 5G in China?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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