What virus? 5G age are losing no momentum
Firworks on the Bund. A concert from Mount Qomolangma. Shanghai officials in shopping malls to promote consumer spending. These are the new virtual scenes coming to the public thanks to 5G.
Fifth-generation telecommunications technology marked half-year operation in China yesterday, coinciding with World Telecommunication Day. It was a chance to showcase commercial improvements in the network, its model variety and applications.
China’s national strategies on intelligent infrastructure construction and digital innovation have fueled the progress of 5G. And, thankfully, the progress hasn’t suffered the same setbacks as other industries from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic.
Various digital applications, like online education and livestreaming sales, have come into daily use.
“The 5G highway is as wide and reliable as a fast road,” said Lu Lei, secretary-general of the Shanghai Information Services Association.
If anything, the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated 5G network construction because of a greater public demand for digital choices, Lu said.
His association is one of the major organizers of a series of information consumption events which kicked off yesterday.
The monthlong events, part of the Double Five Shopping Festival, features discounted smartphones and 5G packages, demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies and innovative new services. It will host over 100 events and 1,000 broadcasts, and involve 10,000 companies, which will boost 100 million orders of online and offline consumption.
For example, city leaders and six district heads attending the event are using virtual technology to promote local brands and creative new ideas in online selling.
Mobile carriers China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are offering coupons and discounted 5G devices.
This year, Shanghai will invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.43 billion) in 5G, aiming to blanket the whole city with an average download speed of 200 megabits per second (mbps). In places like exhibition centers and airports, the 5G download speed will hit 500 mbps, capable of high-definition video broadcasting and cloud games.
China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile carrier, plans to increase 5G base stations in Shanghai to 10,000 from 6,500 currently. Shanghai Mobile will work in tandem with tourism services to offer citizens virtual tours of scenic sites, based on rendering technology and 5G broadcasting.
A preview of this new future was held two weeks ago in a virtual concert on Mount Qomolangma, broadcast by China Central Television. The event combined the artistic performance with the real-time, high-definition Qomolangma night sky in the background.
The video and images were transmitted by 5G base stations at an altitude of 6,500 meters, according to Huawei, the equipment vendor.
“The groundbreaking establishment on Mount Qomolangma once again proves that 5G technology connects mankind and the Earth harmoniously,” Huawei said in a statement.
Globally, 5G traffic is shifting rapidly from business to residential use, with a 20 percent traffic increase in many networks. Consumers are apparently willing to pay a 20 percent premium for superior 5G network services, said Ericsson in an online Ericsson Unboxed event.
According to Borje Ekholm, president and chief executive officer of Ericsson, 5G will unlock the potential of a “fourth Industrial Revolution and will be the cornerstone upon which a country’s relative competitiveness is built.”
China will construct 500,000 5G base stations nationwide this year. By the end of March, China had completed 198,000 5G stations and had chalked up 50 million 5G users, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Ministry spokesman Wen Ku said, “5G is an important engine of the digital economy that will realize the interconnection of all things and devices.”
UBS analyst Hyde Chen said 5G is “a matter of strategic importance for China, so investment in new infrastructure will continue to increase. It won’t be influenced by the pandemic.”
During Shanghai’s information consumption event, mobile carriers will also invite users to access free 5G services like virtual reality, cloud games and remote health care from 45 flagship stores.
Digital equipment makers like Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, ZTE and retailers like Suning and e-commerce platform Pinduoduo plan to offer discounted 5G smartphones during the shopping festival.
In Shanghai, consumers will be able to try out Huawei’s new map service Hetu, based on augmented reality technology. Users can “meet” virtual fish, visit commercial buildings on Nanjing Road E. and see fireworks on the Bund as they follow the map.
Hetu is currently available only on Huawei’s latest P40 models, which support 5G networks.
The 5G has already become a catalyst for smartphone sales, which were heavily hit by the epidemic outbreak in the first quarter.
China’s smartphone sales jumped 14 percent from a year earlier to 41.7 million units in April, the first monthly gain of the year. 5G models accounted for almost 40 percent of those sales, according to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
There were 22 new 5G models released to the market last month in China, among 48 models totally.
In the second half, 5G smartphone sales are forecast to continue to grow as new 5G processors are released by Qualcomm and MideaTek, bringing the cost of 5G smartphones down to below 2,000 yuan and making them more attractive to consumers, analysts said.
Service providers Trip (formerly Ctrip), Pinduoduo, Red (Xiaohongshu) and Meituan Dianping, and electric car and home appliance makers are also participating in Shanghai’s shopping festival.
Many of their services and products rely on 5G services, such as virtual tourism tours and autonomous driving connective technologies.