Exploring China’s 5G Surge: Steady Growth, Subtle Downturn

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China’s 5G operators have experienced a significant surge in subscribers, with almost 17 million new users added in August. This upsurge, however, represents a slowdown in growth compared to recent years, triggered by the vast addition of 5G customers by the nation’s top three telcos: China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom.

The collective addition of 16.6 million new 5G package subscribers by these providers last month signifies a decline when compared to the 26.2 million registered in August 2022. Furthermore, these providers mainly report on the acquisition of 5G plan customers, with limited data on the actual usage of their 5G networks.

China Broadnet, the nation’s fourth mobile network operator, launched services in June last year. Since then, it has only managed to accumulate approximately 9 million customers, demonstrating the immense challenges in competing with the established dominant players in the sector. Furthermore, customer dissatisfaction with network quality and customer service has cast a shadow over their operations.

The rapid rollout of 5G segment growth has led to over 26.9% of the country’s total mobile sites becoming 5G-enabled, as stated by the China Global Television Network, citing the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). These statistics underline China’s commitment to becoming a frontrunner in this technology era.

Impressively, this figure has surpassed the estimated forecast from Omdia, predicting that China would have 2.9 million 5G base stations by the end of 2021 – a target already exceeded. Better coverage through network-sharing initiatives is projected to accelerate 6G coverage in rural areas, making 5G the dominant technology by 2026.

The MIIT data revealed that China had 695 million 5G users by the end of July, accounting for over 40.6% of the country’s total mobile base. However, the major telecom giants reported a combined total of 1.3 billion 5G package customers at the end of August, underlining the gap between actual 5G network usage and those subscribing to a 5G plan.

By continuously monitoring the growth of 5G network customers, observers will gain a clearer perspective on the market dynamics and evaluate whether the slowdown is a genuine trend or a temporary anomaly. Despite the slowdown, the enormous number of new 5G users suggests that 5G is beginning to take hold in China. The nation is steadfast in its quest to stay at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and these figures reflect its innate potential to do so.

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