Why China may beat US in 5G race; India could still lag behind

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New Delhi | Updated: December 19, 2018 6:14 PM

China Mobile claims that its current 5G network testing area is the biggest in the world

5G rollout to be speedier in China

The next big thing in the telecommunications industry is 5G that is gradually inching towards its implementation on a broad scale across major countries in the world. It is expected that the commercial rollout of 5G, the successor to the 4G technology, will begin sometime in the first half of 2019 with the US being the pioneer nation. US carriers including Verizon and AT&T are already running in the forefront to deploy 5G network in select areas to for dry runs before the much-anticipated rollout happens next year. While the US is few steps away from becoming the leading country for the first commercial 5G rollout, there’s another country that wants to snatch that title for itself.

China, the country that has given the world cheaper alternatives to some of the biggest and priciest innovations, is preparing intensively for the 5G rollout. The groundbreaking step towards the 5G rollout in the country was taken when Chinese government and China Mobile, country’s largest telecom company, earmarked a borough in the Fangshan district that has previously seen petrochemical and steel plants. The alliance between the government and the telco resulted in the installation of cell towers around the area that are equipped with 5G modems that have been relaying signals within a closed group of devices such as self-driving vehicles since September this year.

Considered to be the one-point solution for all the network-related issues that have arisen lately with the ever-growing demands of the consumers and the overdone automation in various sectors, 5G dramatically improvises the exchange of data between devices, unlike the previous generations of telecom standards. The introduction of 1G allowed people to communicate with one another wirelessly, 2G brought in the ability to exchange texts, 3G kicked off the era of the Internet, which was later bettered by the arrival of 4G networks that brought the Internet world onboard with streaming.

China wants to be at the helm of the deployment of 5G networks for the first time in the world. In fact, the country describes 5G as a ‘strategic emerging industry’ and ‘new era of growth’ in its 13th Five-Year Plan. China is bullish about its strategy to outdo other countries in the rollout of 5G, which is why it is definitive to ‘make breakthroughs in the fifth-generation mobile communications’. But why is it important for China to be at the frontier when 5G begins rolling out commercially?

The first reason is, of course, the bragging rights that China will particularly exude at the global level for being the first country to roll out 5G. It is also the matter of national pride that will catapult China’s international ties by leaps and bounds. China wants to stay head this time – European countries were the first to receive 2G, Japan rolled out 3G before everybody else, and the US dominated the advent of 4G. While India is also in the race to be one of the first countries that get 5G networks in the first wave, DoT recently said that the spectrum auction for 5G will begin in the latter half of 2019, which doesn’t align with the timelines for the 5G rollout in the developed countries.

Jianzhou Wang, former chairman of China Telecom, said in an interview detailed the journey of China’s mobile communication industry from 1G to 5G as “a process of from nothing to something, from small to big, and from weak to strong”, as noted by MIT Technology Review.

The second reason that motivates Chinese government and telcos to speed up the development of the country’s telecom infrastructure is money. 5G will drive big money that will uplift the country’s economy, as well as the tech industry that has so far been only labelled for its knack to manufacture cheaper knockoffs that are hugely popular in Asian markets including India. And then there is the ambitious desire to erect a tech multinational company such as Apple, Google, or Microsoft right at home.

Money and employment go hand in hand – with the increase in the country’s potential to set out to begin a project as big as the 5G rollout, China is expected to create about 8 million jobs by 2030, as per China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT). Since 5G is not only consumer-friendly but also a technology that will majorly replace the old machines in the health, textile, and energy industries.

China Mobile claims that its current 5G network testing area is the biggest in the world. Some areas in the US such as Washington DC are already undergoing 5G trials, carried out the country’s biggest carriers including Verizon and AT&T. The Chinese government controls the major telcos in the country – China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom – that have been ‘guided’ to deploy large-scale 5G test network points in major cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai. The research on the 5G network began back in 2013, which was put into action in the form of technical trials in the year 2016. The dedication towards the speedy deployment of 5G is something China believes should come to fruition if it manages to become the first 5G-enabled country next year.

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