China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Thursday granted commercial 5G licences to the country’s three telecommunications network operators and the nation’s cable network giant, marking the official commencement of the 5G era in the world’s second-largest and most-populated economy. Hong Kong-listed carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, as well as China Broadcasting Network, were each awarded a licence to run commercial 5G services, MIIT announced on Thursday. Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp, China’s two-largest telecom equipment vendors, which have invested billions of yuan into 5G research and development (R&D) over the years with the aim of playing a major role in network roll-outs, both welcomed the issuance of the licences. Here are some of the key facts explained: 1. What will the coming 5G era in China mean for smartphone users? 5G is the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology, offering faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity and massive device connectivity. It is expected to power new technologies such as smarty city infrastructure and the industrial internet. Smartphone users will be able to send high-resolution 4K video within a few seconds, and both video games and apps based on augmented and virtual reality technologies will be seamless. 5G networks will also be able to support the vast array of connected devices globally, from fitness-tracking watches to internet-linked televisions. Huawei trade ban to test China’s roll-out of 5G commercial licences However, telecoms operators will need time to get the network infrastructure in place before they can offer a wide suite of 5G services to smartphone users. 2. What is China’s current state of 5G development? China, the world’s largest smartphone market, has been a pioneer in pushing forward 5G development globally, helping to develop a global standard with the aim of getting out in front with network technology for the first time. China Mobile, the largest telecoms operator in China, expects its 5G expenditure to reach about 17 billion yuan (US$2.46 billion) in 2019, while the two smaller players, China Telecom and China Unicom, are forecast to allocate 9 billion yuan, and 6 to 8 billion yuan respectively to 5G investment this year, according to local media reports. Many Chinese cities have mapped out plans to support 5G roll-out. Shanghai, for example, has built 500 5G base stations so far, with plans to have more than 10,000 5G base stations in place by the end of 2019 and more than 30,000 5G base stations by 2021, according to a Securities Times report last month. 3. What 5G smartphones are on the market? Major Android-smartphone vendors have all tested and some have even released 5G-enabled devices after US chip vendor Qualcomm late last year unveiled its flagship 5G mobile processor, the Snapdragon 855. Earlier this year, Huawei released its in-house designed Balong 5000 chipset, which will first be used in its Mate X series, a foldable and 5G-enabled handset ready for shipment starting June this year. Why Huawei’s rivals are no shoo-in for 5G contracts But Apple fans will need to wait until next year for a 5G iPhone as the US technology giant has decided to hold off until at least 2020 before launching 5G-enabled iPhones, according to an earlier Bloomberg report. On June 4, Huawei’s smartphone unit head He Gang demonstrated its foldable 5G smartphone device, the Huawei Mate X, which revealed download speeds of up to 1 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 100 Mbps using the Ookla Speed Test App. The Huawei Mate X is able to automatically switch between different networks such as 5G/4G/3G/2G. 4. Will it be easy to migrate to China’s 5G network? Chinese telecom operators have vowed to introduce 5G data plans as early as August. Even though 5G devices will consume more data than current handsets, charges for 5G plans are not expected to be significantly higher than for 4G plans, according to a June 4 Securities Times report. But the overall migration from 4G to 5G is expected to be a slow process as the country has more than 1 billion smartphones in use. Qualcomm’s X55 5G chip, unveiled at industry event MWC 2019 earlier this year – and expected to be widely used by Android phones - will not appear in 5G smartphones until the end of this year or early 2020. 4G networks are also expected to remain in existence long after 5G is introduced. Most 5G phones are also expected to support multiple networks, from 2G to 5G. So if you don’t have a 5G phone in the near future, don’t worry, your phone will still work in China — you’ll just be missing out on a whole new world of mobile services.