Tech gap with foreign rivals seen narrowing
The era of 5G is approaching and major technology companies have rolled out plans for commercializing next-generation 5G networks at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018, which runs from Monday to Thursday in Barcelona, Spain.
Chinese telecommunication services provider ZTE Corp showcased its latest advances in 5G commercialization at MWC on Monday, including its commercially viable 5G network and the industry's first carrier grade 5G end-to-end commercial network slicing solution, the company said in a statement sent to the Global Times.
Huawei Technologies Co also announced at MWC its breakthrough 5G device on Sunday (local time), the first commercial terminal device supporting the 3GPP telecommunication standard, the company told the Global Times on Monday.
The 3GPP standard is the globally recognized standard for 5G, the next generation of networks that connect not only people to people but things to things and the cloud.
"5G has been shifting from a concept to a concrete product," said Xiang Ligang, chief executive of domestic telecom industry news site cctime.com. Xiang was heading to the opening ceremony of MWC when he talked with the Global Times on Monday.
He noted that he was impressed by the latest 5G customer-premises equipment unveiled by Huawei, which has attracted much attention at the event, while also showcasing China's strong position in global 5G competition.
Other foreign companies have also shed light on their adoption of 5G networks. Nokia announced on Sunday that it will team up with China Mobile to develop 5G networks for industrial use, according to Reuters.
Börje Ekholm, CEO of Swedish firm Ericsson, said on Monday that the company has to make it easy for customers to deploy and scale 5G, according to the company's official Twitter account.
The global telecom infrastructure market is now dominated by four players - Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei and ZTE - and the fact that two of them are from China shows how quickly the country has caught up in 5G development in recent years, Cui Kai, telecommunications and Internet of Things (IoT) research manager at market research firm International Data Corp, told the Global Times on Monday.
"China has an edge in both telecom infrastructure and consumer equipment like the use of smartphones, but it still has room to grow in the IoT sector," he said.
The Chinese government has attached importance to the development of 5G networks in recent years. In November 2017, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, called for the establishment of 5G scale networking examples in major cities in China in 2018, according to a document released by the NDRC.
More than five cities should establish 5G networks using sub-6 GHz spectrum bands, and each city should have more than 50 base stations, the document noted.
Gap still exists
Chinese companies, along with domestic telecom operators, have been investing heavily in 5G deployment, Liu Ruofei, general manager of the information and telecom research center of CCID Consulting, told the Global Times on Monday.
"However, 5G networks have not been fully commercialized. As long as they are still testing 5G technologies, it's too early to say who is the front-runner," Liu said.
He noted that there is still a gap between domestic and foreign players in terms of chipset speed and storage capacity, though the gap has been narrowed down.
Huawei has invested more than 0 million in 5G research and innovation since it launched its 5G plan in 2009, and it has teamed up with more than 30 telecom operators worldwide including British firm Vodafone, Japan's SoftBank and Germany's T-Mobile.
The 5G networks will start the pre-commercialization phase in 2019 and will be officially applied in 2020, but some analysts have predicted that large-scale deployment of 5G networks may take longer.
"From 2G to 3G, the internet helped, and then mobile internet boosted 4G development. But we haven't seen a disruptive application that makes 5G a necessity," Cui said.
That application could bring more valuable business models for enterprises and improvement for user experience, he noted. "Virtual reality or IoT for business are not really killer applications that could attract large investment from telecom operators," he remarked.