China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless network operator, is ratcheting up its 5G preparations with plans for over-the-air field trials on the mainland’s 3.5-gigahertz spectrum band, employing key technologies from ZTE Corp and Qualcomm Technologies. The trials will be conducted in the second half of this year and comprise the second phase of China Mobile ’s 5G testing programme, part of efforts to help ensure a timely commercial 5G network launch, according to Wang Xiaoyun, the general manager at the operator’s technology department, in a joint statement on Wednesday with the firm’s two project partners. Wang said the collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies and ZTE is also expected to support rapid validation of their devices and equipment, which are based on the “5G New Radio” specifications being developed by the telecommunications association known as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as part of future universal 5G standards. Shenzhen-based ZTE is China’s largest-listed telecommunications equipment supplier, while Qualcomm Technologies is the operating subsidiary of Nasdaq-listed mobile chip giant Qualcomm. Their joint initiative has come more than two months after China Mobile outlined its 5G roadmap The operator, which had 851.2 million mobile subscribers as of January 31, plans to build 20 5G sites in four to five mainland cities by 2018 as part of its large-scale trials. By 2020, China Mobile aims to roll out 10,000 5G sites for its commercial service launch. In its upcoming 5G trials, China Mobile will implement prototype devices from Qualcomm Technologies and mobile base stations from ZTE on the 3.5GHz band, the spectrum on which the three companies aim to test ubiquitous subscriber coverage and other 5G user cases, according to Qualcomm. “If the International Telecommunications Union, along with 3GPP, completes the standard-setting and spectrum allocation process by early 2018, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is expected to ... issue 5G licenses [on the mainland] in 2019,” Jefferies equity analyst Edison Lee said in a recent report. “Test networks will continue to expand when the licensing process is being developed.” In December, the ministry passed new spectrum management legislation that would see public tender and auction used in future 5G spectrum allocation.