China says it has built 700,000 5G base stations, more than rest of world combined
- China’s 5G buildout comes at a time when the country is battling the US for global dominance in cutting-edge technologies
- To achieve complete coverage, China will need 10 million 5G base stations in total, which will require about US$280 billion of investment
China said it has built close to 700,000 5G base stations since June of last year, exceeding its original target of half a million, as the country continues to push ahead with plans to lead global deployment of the next-generation wireless technology.
That figure is more than twice the number of 5G base stations outside China, according to Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) vice-minister Liu Liehong, without citing comparative figures from other countries.
The latest analysts’ estimate from Jefferies, however, put the total number of 5G base stations rolled out across the country at 650,000. Their data projected that state-owned carriers China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom will have up to 750,000 5G base stations by the end of this year.
There are currently more than 180 million devices operating on China’s 5G mobile infrastructure, Liu revealed in his presentation at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Wednesday.
“The good infrastructure has spurred a range of new 5G-based applications,” Liu said in remarks reported by Chinese media Sina News. “For instance, the smart education sector has witnessed the emergence of new education models such as ultra-high-resolution, remote interactive teaching powered by 5G, immersive teaching with augmented and virtual reality technology and hologram classrooms during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
China’s 5G buildout comes at a time when the country is battling the US for global dominance in cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, all considered key components for achieving competitiveness in the new economy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has singled out 5G networks and data centres as top priorities in the country’s plans to invest in “new infrastructure”. The next-generation mobile network is considered a fundamental element of China’s new digital infrastructure, aimed at driving greater connectivity for consumers and businesses.
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To achieve complete coverage, China will need 10 million 5G base stations in total, which will require about 2 trillion yuan (US$280 billion) of investment, according to Zhang Yunyong, president of the China Unicom Research Institute.
South Korea, the first country in the world to provide 5G mobile services, has 115,000 base stations in operation, according to government data in April. Seoul announced last week that the number of 5G service users reached 8.6 million as of August.
Total worldwide 5G infrastructure spending is projected to reach US$8.1 billion this year, according to the latest forecast by Gartner.