China tops 110 million 5G users in less than a year

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Image Credits: Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

More than 110 million users in China have signed up for 5G plans, announced president of the China Academy for Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), a think tank under the telecoms watchdog Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, at an industry event on Wednesday.

That makes China the largest 5G market in terms of user size, the think tank president said. The milestone came in less than a year after China’s top carriers rolled out  5G plans for consumers, and just over a year after the authority began issuing 5G licenses for commercial use.

The number is still a small fraction of the overall subscription. In June, China’s three state-run carriers collectively commanded some 1.6 billion mobile subscribers (suggesting China’s 1.4 billion population owned more than one mobile device per capita).

China’s 5G ambition is a multi-pronged effort among the government, network carriers, telecoms equipment makers, device makers and software developers. Policymakers need to show consumers visible improvement on network speed, and as such the carriers have been aggressively setting up 5G base stations across the country — more than 460,000 towers by July.

China was adding an average of 15,000 new 5G base stations every week, said an official in July. The government has plans to raise that number to 600,000 by the end of 2020, covering all prefectural-level cities nationwide. A clear winner in China’s 5G push is Huawei, which makes both 5G devices and the infrastructure that undergirds the next-gen network.

In the meantime, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and their rivals are rushing to launch 5G-compatible handsets. China has sold more than 93 million units of 5G mobile phones this year so far, according to recent data released by CAICT. 5G phones accounted for 60% of total shipments in August.

China’s rapid shift to 5G is also driving the need for new hardware parts like integrated circuits. The country produced over 100 billion units of ICs during the first half of 2020, representing a 16.4% year-over-year gain, said an industry official in July, adding that much of the demand came from 5G-related projects.

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