April 24, 2022

China Will Be Home to 892 Million 5G Connections in 2025, Says GSMA Report

"Since the initial outbreak of Covid-19, mobile networks have been instrumental in providing the reliable connectivity needed to sustain social and economic activities," the GSMA says in its 2022 report on China's mobile economy. While the GSMA published its report prior to the spread of coronavirus that is gripping the country, the UK-based organization, which is unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver innovation foundational to positive business environments and societal change, adds that Chinese "operators have harnessed their networks to support frontline healthcare efforts to curb the spread of the virus, including the use of 5G-powered remote patient diagnosis. In this sense, the pandemic has presented a testing ground for an array of 5G-enabled solutions, further demonstrating the benefits that the technology can bring to society."

Available in English and 中文, the report explains that "[b]y the end of 2021, over 1.2 billion people subscribed to mobile services in China, equivalent to 83% of the population. While this places China among the world's most developed mobile markets, unique subscriber growth is slowing. Nevertheless, smartphone adoption and mobile internet usage continue to grow steadily as operators focus on expanding access to digital services such as video. Increasing engagement with bandwidth-hungry applications will drive the rise in data traffic, which is set to grow by almost 3.5× by 2027."

With respect to the Chinese mobile ecosystem looking to frontier technologies, the report importantly notes: "The metaverse – broadly defined as myriad virtual environments blended with the real world to enable immersive user experiences – is receiving huge interest around the world. This emerging phenomenon is being explored by tech firms across China, as well as mobile operators, which could use 5G as a main pathway to engage in this space." What is more, "Operators are looking to combine best-in-class telecoms networks with frontier technologies to make an impact in key sectors, including manufacturing and mining."

According to the GSMA, "4G adoption peaked in 2020 and fell throughout 2021 as consumers increasingly switched to 5G packages. Due to the rapid take-up of 5G in China, the region is one of the global leaders in terms of 5G adoption." Companies developing services utilizing 5G technology will appreciate that "As consumers signal relatively strong upgrade intentions, GSMA Intelligence expects that China will be home to 892 million 5G connections in 2025 (representing 52% adoption)."

On the topic of the mobile industry continuing to tackle digital exclusion and social challenges in China, the report asserts: "Mobile operators play a key role in efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), primarily by delivering the connectivity that enables access to life-enhancing services and tools, and providing a platform for industrial transformation. As a consequence of operators' heavy network investments, more than 1.04 billion people in China now use mobile internet services. This figure is expected to increase by a further 146 million by 2025, reducing the proportion of unconnected people to 20% of the population."

Lastly, "During the Covid-19 pandemic," the GSMA says "society has relied heavily on communications and digital technologies, which have acted as a lifeline for citizens, businesses and institutions. In a post-pandemic world, supportive investment-friendly policies will be fundamental to stimulating telecoms infrastructure build-out, which will be a central pillar of economic recovery and future crisis resilience." I support the assertion that "As countries bring the pandemic under control, a top priority for governments will be to drive economic recovery, promote sustainable growth and increase resilience to future shocks. Advanced connectivity will be crucial to realizing this objective, for instance by enhancing productivity and efficiency through 5G- and IoT-enabled digital transformation of industries."

While a post-pandemic world is not arriving as quickly as Chinese officials planned, corporations and entrepreneurs alike are continuing to develop innovative cloud, big data, IoT, AI, blockchain, and security solutions.

What are you recommendations for driving economic recovery, promote sustainable growth and increase resilience in a post-pandemic world?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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