China building 500,000 5G base stations this year
China will build 500,000 5G base stations this year to develop the digital economy, a new growth engine during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Thursday.
By the end of March, China had built 198,000 5G base stations and had 50 million 5G users, the industry regulator said.
“5G, as an important engine of the digital economy, is a key new infrastructure to realize the interconnection of all things and devices,” said Wen Ku, an MIIT spokesman.
“It has an important role in steadily investing, promoting consumption and helping upgrades in the face of the huge impact of the pandemic,” Wen said.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, 5G applications have been adopted in the sectors such as the Internet of Vehicles, the Industrial Internet and remote medical treatment. Applications like robot, touchless sterilization, work-at-home and online education have become reality with 5G, the MIIT said.
The ministry said 5G construction can stabilize investment, enhance value-chain development and deepen synergies between telecommunications and other industries.
"Nonetheless, developing 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 pandemics,” Hyde Chen, a UBS analyst, said during a phone conference.
5G is set to catalyze the development of automated vehicles and digital health care, and the advancement of these two areas is also critical for the government's execution of its smart city strategy, according to UBS.
In the first quarter, the digital economy was still growing. Mobile data traffic grew 39.3 percent year on year while online transaction volume grew 5.9 percent in the quarter, according to MIIT.
China had approved 96 5G smartphone models by Wednesday, compared with 39 models by the end of last year. More affordable 5G models have appeared at prices below below 3,000 yuan (US$429), Wen said.
Vivo, the country’s No. 3 smartphone player, launched a 5G model on Thursday, targeting young consumers with a starting price of 2,698 yuan. The iQOO Neo3 features dual 5G standard support, fast-charging and game optimization including eSports features.
Gaming is also a part of the digital economy with booming demand as people stay at home during the pandemic. 5G networks improve users gaming experience and create new business opportunities such as cloud games. Cloud games allows players to access games on any device at any time without the need for downloads.
Huawei’s Honor, Oppo and Xiaomi have also launched affordable 5G models.