China’s big three mobile players – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – are forecast to invest nearly 50 per cent more on 5G infrastructure over the next seven years than their expected outlay on 4G technology between 2013 and 2020, according to estimates by Jefferies.
The investment bank predicts the operators will spend a combined $180 billion from 2017 to 2023 compared with an estimated $117 billion investment in 4G in the seven years from 2013 on, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
If accurate, the sum will be nearly four times higher than the expected combined 5G investment of Japan’s three major operators. According to Nikkei Asian Review, NTT Docomo, SoftBank and KDDI intend to allocate JPY5 trillion ($45.7 billion) to 5G development through to 2023, when nationwide coverage is expected to be reached.
“The impact of 5G on innovative consumer and business services on the mainland will be significant, as all three [Chinese] telecoms network operators will likely build out aggressively from 2019,” Jefferies equity analyst Edison Lee told SCMP.
Led by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and implemented by China’s IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group, China plans to start second phase 5G network tests at 30 sites this year and conduct large scale networking tests next year. The first 5G services are expected in 2020 at the earliest.
The MIIT recently launched an open consultation on the use of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum for the development of 5G networks and in early June said China plans to deploy 5G in the 3.3GHz to 3.6GHz and 4.8GHz to 5GHz bands.
Jefferies forecasts China will have 588 million 5G subscribers by 2022. The country had 830 million 4G subscribers at end-March and is on track to surpass 1 billion by end-2017.
China Mobile, the largest mobile network operator in the world with 856 million connections, aims to launch phase two product validation trials in 2018 and to have a commercial 5G launch in 2020.