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Tuesday, March 03, 2020, 12:19
China's telecom carriers to ramp up work on 5G base stations
By Ma Si
Tuesday, March 03, 2020, 12:19 By Ma Si

A technician of China Telecom installs a 5G base station in Shanghai. (ZHANG HENGWEI / CHINA NEWS SERVICE)

China's telecom carriers have confirmed plans to build at least 550,000 5G base stations this year, adding that the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak would not disrupt their commitment to quickly roll out the superfast wireless technology.

China Unicom and China Telecom, respectively the nation's second-and third-largest telecom operator, said they would join hands to build 250,000 5G base stations in the first three quarters of this year, finishing the year-end target in advance.

Specifically, in the first half of this year, they will build 100,000 5G base stations in total, which can cover 47 cities with 5G signals.

In the meantime, China Mobile, the nation's biggest telecom carrier by mobile subscribers, said it will pour in resources to achieve the construction target of 300,000 5G base stations by the end of this year. The company has initiated the purchase plan for its second-phase 5G project.

The superfast wireless communication technology has ensured quality and stable mobile services for hospitals, emergency command centers, railway stations and bus terminals

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The new player, China Broadcasting Network Corp, which was granted the license for commercial use of 5G in June last year, has not officially disclosed its construction plans, but some analysts estimated that it would build more than 50,000 5G base stations this year.

Their comments came after the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the nation's top industry regulator, convened a meeting in February to underline that more efforts are needed to resume production in the telecommunication industry. The ministry called for concerted efforts in promoting the development of 5G.

As a new type of infrastructure, 5G can help boost economic growth. The ministry has asked telecom enterprises to assess the timely impact of the epidemic, and formulate and optimize the 5G network construction plans accordingly.

More efforts are needed to effectively play the positive role of 5G construction in "stabilizing investment" and promoting the development of the overall industrial chain, the ministry said.

Currently, 5G is already playing an active part in containing the novel coronavirus outbreak. The superfast wireless communication technology has ensured quality and stable mobile services for hospitals, emergency command centers, railway stations and bus terminals.

It is also the foundation for robots, remote work, big data analysis and artificial intelligence-enabled body-temperature measurement, as companies and people are working hard to contain the epidemic while resuming work at the same time.

For instance, it took China's three major telecommunications operators-China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom-just three days to complete the construction of the communication network at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province and the epicenter of the epidemic.

Still, the epidemic has caused short-term impact on 5G rollout in some provinces. Gansu, Jiangxi, Anhui and other regions had said that they would delay the construction of 5G to some extent. The restrictions on cross-region transportation have also hampered the shipment of telecom gear.

The ministry has asked local telecom authorities to communicate with local governments so that more efforts can be made to solve the problems faced by telecom carriers while building 5G base stations, such as how to balance construction rhythm with epidemic-prevention measures.

As economic activities have been resuming amid the novel coronavirus epidemic, construction of 5G telecommunications infrastructure is being accelerated in South China's Guangdong province.

The plan is to build 50,000 5G base stations this year to bring the total in the province to 100,000, said Su Shaolin, director of the Guangdong Provincial Communications Administration, at a media conference in Guangzhou last week.

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The goal is to realize full coverage in the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and pursue continuous coverage in central areas of cities in the Pearl River Delta, and coverage in all prefecture-level cities in the province, he said.

Yang Guang, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, said it is inevitable that the epidemic will slow the construction of 5G networks in some cities. But the government will roll out measures after the epidemic to make up for the delay.

According to him, 5G is one of the key areas for infrastructure spending, which can fuel economic growth.

Also, the epidemic will likely spur the adoption of 5G in more industries from a mid-to long-term perspective. Amid the outbreak, healthcare, home entertainment, public security, remote work and online education sectors are relying heavily on 5G networks.

Chen Fengwei, an employee at China Unicom, said the industries that are directly involved in epidemic prevention, including medical care, logistics, robotics and security, will see a surge in demand for 5G networks.

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