How would you like to play high-bandwidth VR games in the subway? While it’s probably a bad idea -- imagine a subway packed with people blinded by VR goggles -- it might become possible in the near future in Beijing.
Local telecom operator China Mobile has joined hands with one of the operators of the Beijing subway to launch a 5G network on one subway line. The Beijing MTR Corporation equipped all 10 stations along the metro’s Line 16 with super-fast internet access, Chinese state media reported.
Local media tested the new subway 5G network and measured download speeds of 933 Mbps and upload speeds of 87Mbps, significantly higher than speeds found on an average 4G network.
Theoretically, 5G download speeds can reach up to 1 Gbps, which means seamless streaming of high-definition content like 4K video. It might even make getting to the platform faster, as bringing up QR codes for payment -- now a common sight at subway turnstiles across China -- should become much faster.
Internet in subways isn’t new. Many cities around the world have equipped their subway systems and buses with WiFi, including Seoul, which introduced its ultra-fast 1.25 Gbps internet last year.
But 5G is definitely a more popular buzzword these days, in spite of the fact that 5G-equipped smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 are just beginning to hit the market.
China takes 5G quite seriously and is already ahead of the US in infrastructure deployment, according to Deloitte. To show just how serious it is, Huawei helped stream CCTV’s Chinese New Year Gala, the world’s most-watched TV show, over a 5G network in 4K ultra high definition in February.
This isn’t even the first time a subway in China has introduced 5G connectivity. Both the Chengdu and Changchun subway systems have equipped one of their stations with 5G. Other transportation hubs are also getting speedy connections, including railway stations and airports.
Since 2015, China has outspent the US by approximately $24 billion in wireless communications infrastructure. The country is expected to spend another $411 billion in the next decade, too.
Though 5G clearly brings many benefits to consumers, it could also mean better surveillance for governments. Having 5G in the subway enables 4K high-definition video feeds in a highly-populated area. This kind of tech could aid facial recognition and positioning technologies, according to People's Posts and Telecommunications News.