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A 5G sign is pictured at Huawei's booth at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China, June 28, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Shanghai’s free-trade zone will accelerate digital infrastructure push with 5G, IoT and AI tech

  • Shanghai will promote construction of 5G networks, optical fibre broadband, IoT and industrial internet applications, and speed up data hubs

Shanghai has kicked off a new development plan for its free-trade zone that focuses on the construction of 5G networks, internet of things connectivity, edge computing and improved data hubs.

The new focus, detailed in five-year guidelines issued on Monday, comes as the world’s second-biggest economy looks to digital infrastructure to recover from the coronavirus slowdown and to retool its economy for the future.

The city authorities will promote the construction of 5G networks, optical fibre broadband, IoT and industrial internet applications, and speed up on building data hubs and edge computing networks in the Lingang New Area of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, according to telecommunications infrastructure guidelines planned for the area throughout 2025.

Shanghai expects to have citywide 5G coverage by the end of the year, according to comments from the city mayor in January.

Located in the southeast corner of Shanghai and home to Tesla’s first factory outside the US, Lingang is expected to lead the city’s effort to become a “new-generation” information and communication hub within the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s online education drive to boost demand for PCs, 5G and cloud

In separate efforts, new experiments will be carried out to explore cross-border internet governance and data exchange, including setting up offshore data centres and a white-list to explore how some companies can access the “international internet”.

The move comes amid wider efforts by Beijing to roll out digital infrastructure backed by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence as the country aims to a global leader in the new economy.

The coronavirus outbreak has already accelerated adoption of some of these technologies, including telemedicine, online education and unmanned deliveries during the recent health crisis.

China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said on Monday that “new infrastructure” included foundational information technologies such as 5G, IoT, the industrial internet, cloud computing and blockchain, AI and big data applications, as well as supportive facilities for scientific and technology research.

China plans to launch nationwide guidelines for the development of this new infrastructure and will promote a favourable environment, according to Wu Hao, head of the department of hi-tech industry at the NDRC.