21 January 2020
China has begun certification for 5G handsets as phone makers and telecom operators gear up for commercial launch of new-generation mobile services. Photo: Bloomberg
China has begun certification for 5G handsets as phone makers and telecom operators gear up for commercial launch of new-generation mobile services. Photo: Bloomberg

China 5G battle set to begin in earnest

China has been stepping up efforts on the 5G front as it seeks to be among the first in the world in rollout of the next-generation mobile services that could open up many new applications. A crucial element in the plan is ensuring adequate supply of advanced handsets in the market, something that authorities are focusing upon right now. 

As per reports, China has granted quality certification to eight 5G handsets as of date, clearing the way for the devices to hit the market soon. And the list will expand in the coming weeks.

Among the first batch of the 5G phones that received the quality certificate were four models from Huawei, including the Mate 20 X 5G and the Mate X 5G.

Of the remaining four 5G devices that received the so-called China Compulsory Certification (CCC), Oppo, Vivo, ZTE and One Plus accounted for one handset each.

Oppo announced on Wednesday that its Reno 5G phone has won the CCC nod, as well as two other licenses that are required for market launch, which could take place in the current quarter. 

Among other Chinese phone brands, Xiaomi and Lenovo are yet to figure in the approved 5G device list, but the situation could change soon. As for global players, Samsung was also missing from the first batch.

Reports say that Xiaomi, which has won a deal from China Mobile to supply 2,000 5G phones, will lodge an application next week.

Chinese smartphone makers are confident about their prospects, with some firms having already launched their 5G devices in overseas markets earlier this year.

For instance, OnePlus teamed up with British mobile network operator EE to launch the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G in the United Kingdom. Oppo’s Reno 5G and Xiaomi’s Mi 3 5G also launched in some European markets, making Chinese phone makers among the first in the 5G arena after Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G offering.

Huawei is reportedly planning to launch the Mate 20 X 5G in the China market on July 26. If that happens, it will mark the first 5G device to go on sale in the country.

The handset, however, may not set the market on fire as it is just an upgrade model of Mate 20 X. Consumers may wait for a new device that offers a whole new design along with 5G connectivity.

As phone makers prepare for product launches, China’s state-owned telecom carriers are scrambling to build 5G base stations across the nation. China Mobile, the country’s No. 1 mobile operator, has announced earlier that its 5G network will cover 50 cities, with more than 500,000 base stations,  by the end of this year.

Operators are also fine-tuning their 5G service plans to lure users to try the upcoming new service.

According to reports, China Mobile and China Telecom will set their data usage fee at 10 yuan for 10GB, with an aim to bring down the fee later half a yuan per GB. Meanwhile, some internet firms could partner with mobile operators to offer dedicated data package for users to browse specific services at a special rate.

Early adopters of new technology could face several issues in their services. Complaints could range from poor network coverage, weak network signal and slower-than-promised speeds, as well as phones running out of battery much faster than before.

All these glitches are, however, unavoidable as with any new mobile technology. Take South Korea as an example, where consumers are now complaining that the projected internet speeds of up to 100 times the 4G level have not been met.

Users are also griping that they often have weak signal and poor connections, with some even claiming that 4G had offered better speed than 5G. The problems are believed to stem, in large part, from insufficient base stations for comprehensive nationwide coverage.

Chinese operators should learn from the experience of their Korean peers and fix the infrastructure issues before they go full steam ahead on 5G marketing activities.

More capital investments may be needed if they are to meet the rising consumer expectations.

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EJ Insight writer