Starting with an inter-network roaming service trial
China, a global leader in 5G technology, is set to strengthen its position further as it plans to add over 600,000 5G base stations by the end of 2023, reaching a total of 2.9 million, according to recent research conducted by Omdia. The country had already built the world’s largest 5G network with 2.3 million 5G base stations deployed by the end of 2022.
A significant milestone in China’s 5G network development occurred in May 2023 when all four major mobile operators in the country—China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Broadnet—announced the launch of the world’s first 5G inter-network roaming service trial. Facilitated by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), this collaborative effort enables customers to access other operators’ 5G networks and continue using 5G services when outside the coverage area of their original operator.
Ramona Zhao, Research Manager at Omdia, emphasized the potential of inter-network roaming to enhance 5G network coverage, particularly in rural areas. The improved coverage is expected to propel 5G ahead of 4G as the dominant technology in China’s mobile market by 2026. Omdia predicts that by the end of 2028, 5G will account for 65.1 per cent of total mobile subscriptions, including IoT connections.
Omdia recognizes China as a pioneer in 5G, excelling in various aspects such as technology innovation, network deployment, and 5G use cases. The country’s commitment to advancing 5G has resulted in positive revenue growth for mobile service providers. In 2022, China Telecom reported a 3.7 per cent increase in mobile service revenue, China Unicom saw a year-on-year growth of 3.6 per cent in mobile service revenue, and China Mobile experienced a 2.5 per cent YoY rise in mobile service revenue.
Moreover, Chinese service providers are capitalizing on the demand for digital transformation from state-owned enterprises, leading to a thriving cloud services business. Omdia recommends that Chinese service providers continue to drive innovation by integrating cloud services with the 5G network. This integration will play a vital role in facilitating the digital transformation of various industries and unlocking new revenue streams.
China’s ambitious 5G expansion plans, along with its focus on inter-network roaming and digital transformation, position the country as a frontrunner in the global 5G landscape, paving the way for technological advancements and economic growth.