China Ready for 5G Networks Rollout in Response to Trade War

Escalating trade tensions have led to China implementing a more "aggressive" timeline for 5G, experts say.
Chris Young

China has given the green light for its large state-owned mobile carriers to start rolling out 5G networks, a move experts are declaring a retaliation to the escalating trade war with the US.

The next generation networks are seen as vital due to their increased speed enabling support of vast IoT infrastructures and applications like driverless cars. 


A study by the European Commission, for example, predicts that the social economic benefits of 5G will be €113 billion for the ten years, following its release.

5G infrastructures are go in China

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology this week issued 5G commercial licenses to China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Radio and Television. 

This means these carriers can begin implementing and rolling out 5G networks, after having tested the networks over the last year.

Though some of the companies have indicated they will begin releasing their 5G services this year, there is no guarantee that 5G will be immediately available.

According to mobile network trade body, GSMA's estimations, China will account for a larger number of 5G connections. This will be far higher than Europe and North America combined by 2025 — totaling 460 million connections by the end of that year.

A response to trade tensions

China's move comes amidst growing tensions in the trade war with the US. President Donald Trump suggested earlier this year that rolling out new networks was part of a global strategy stating that "the race to 5G is on and America must win."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has blacklisted Huawaei Technologies, the world's largest maker of telecom equipment by restricting its access to US technology.

A widespread rollout of 5G networks this year would put China ahead of its competitors on the world stage. The US has seen 5G released in a limited number of cities through Verizon while carriers in South Korea and the UK have also launched limited 5G services.

Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC that China's 5G rollout timeline looks "more aggressive now" than it did earlier in the year.

The "tech cold war is going on", Shah said, thanks to growing tensions between world powers as well as the US and South Korea's recent pushes in their technology sectors.

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