Faltering start for 5G in China with 6G already looming large

·1-min read
5G is available in Shanghai (here), but outside big cities, it is currently quite difficult to access 5G networks in China.
5G is available in Shanghai (here), but outside big cities, it is currently quite difficult to access 5G networks in China.

It has already been a year since the first 5G commercial offers were launched in China. And for the moment, results are mixed with spotty coverage countrywide and 5G compatible phones deemed too expensive for the majority of Chinese people, according to the South China Morning Post. Chinese authorities are nevertheless already looking towards 6G, having just sent a first experimental satellite into space.

A 5G pioneer, China is one of the few countries that can already make an initial assessment of the uses of this new mobile phone standard. And the first results are rather disappointing, particularly since coverage is still quite limited. Outside of big cities, it is currently quite difficult to access 5G networks in China.

The other obstacle has to do with the price of compatible smartphones. While they are cheaper than in the West, 5G phones remain far too expensive for a large part of the population. The average price for a 5G phone in China is currently equivalent to around US$475, although prices are going down. Realme recently launched a 5G smartphone for less than US$180.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) recently revealed that China counts 160 million devices connected to its 5G network. This figure is relatively low if you consider that the country counts over 1.2 billion 4G subscriptions.

Fun fact: there are more 5G plans subscribed to in China than there are compatible smartphones in circulation! China Mobile and China Telecom together count 179 million subscribers while China Unicom has not communicated its figures. By way of comparison, only 120 million 5G compatible smartphones have shipped countrywide. This means that many 5G subscribers still have to use 4G networks and are not enjoying the possibilities that 5G has to offer.