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China rolls out 916,000 5G stations, making up 70% of global total

China will enhance innovation and development of 5G technology amid a boom in the digital sector, with 10 government agencies on Tuesday jointly issuing a three-year action plan aiming to significantly improve 5G applications, a weak link that — if fixed — could cement the country’s lead in the sector.

China already has 70 percent of the world’s 5G base stations and expects to have more than 560 million end users by 2023, and China is also proving to be an irresistible market for foreign vendors, according to industry experts.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the Cyberspace Administration of China, and the National Development and Reform Commission were among the 10 agencies issuing the plan for 2021-23, which will significantly advance the application of 5G technology in China, according to the MIIT’s official WeChat account.

The plan aims to promote the development of 5G applications in key industries in China, which is an ongoing process, Ma Jihua, a veteran industry analyst, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The country has deployed 916,000 5G base stations, accounting for 70 percent of the world’s total, and the number of 5G-connected devices has exceeded 365 million, making up 80 percent of the world’s total, said Liu Liehong, vice minister of the MIIT, at the 2021 China Internet Conference that convened in Beijing on Tuesday.

China has a relatively large urban 5G network and the coverage is expanding to rural areas, with the number of users steadily increasing, said Ma.

Insufficient 5G applications might diminish users’ enthusiasm for switching to 5G devices and networks, since users cannot tell the difference between 4G and 5G without actually experiencing 5G in realistic scenarios, the official added.

Foreign vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia cannot give up the Chinese market, as doing so would mean abandoning the earliest opportunities to cultivate their own 5G applications and hone their 5G equipment, according to Ma, emphasizing that China has the fastest-developing and most powerful 5G market in the world with the strongest foundation.

“Equipment vendors and terminal venders must have a certain share in the Chinese market before claiming they occupy the global market,” said Ma. He added that providing some market share to foreign venders in China is a win-win strategy for both sides.

The plan sets a goal of reaching more than 560 million 5G users by 2023, with China’s penetration rate of 5G technology exceeding 40 percent, and forming an initial ecosystem consisting of ultrafast mobile connections and accelerated digital consumption.

The plan also focuses on advancing the digital transformation of key industries by prioritizing 5G applications such as invigorating a full-fledged industrial internet.

China’s 5G mobile phone shipments hit 128 million in the first half of 2021. Global Times

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