LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS SHANGHAI 2017: China’s three operators are on track to launch commercial 5G networks by 2020 and are expected to establish China as the world’s largest 5G market by 2025, according to a study by GSMA Intelligence and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).
The study, 5G in China: Outlook and Regional Comparisons, which was released today at GSMA Mobile World Congress Shanghai, predicts 5G connections in China to reach 428 million by 2025, accounting for 39 per cent of the 1.1 billion global 5G connections expected by that point.
The study explores the near-term outlook for the testing and commercial launches of new 5G networks in China and other advanced Asia markets, and the potential 5G use cases for both the consumer and enterprise markets.
“Operators in China are collaborating closely with government and enterprises to launch what will become one of the largest 5G deployments in the world,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA.
Mobile operators in China plan to run a phased testing period for 5G networks from 2017 to 2019 before launching commercially in 2020. They are expected to deploy standalone 5G networks, which will require the construction of new base stations to house 5G equipment, backhaul links and a core network.
However, the report notes another option being considered in several other Asia markets is to deploy non-standalone 5G networks that would run on existing infrastructure supplemented by targeted small cell deployment in areas of high density, allowing 4G and 5G services to run in parallel.
4G penetration in China increased fivefold to 61 per cent over the two-year period to March 2017 and there remains significant headroom for 4G growth. As a result, 4G and 5G networks are expected to coexist in China for a considerable period of time. The rate of 5G network rollout and adoption in China is also expected to be slower than it was for 4G, which Chinese operators were able to deploy rapidly earlier this decade within a mature 4G ecosystem.