China Mobile promises 5G phones for just 1,000 yuan

Top News | Tereza Cai and Agencies 26 Jun 2019

China will accelerate its 5G development despite hindrances caused by the trade war with the United States, China Mobile has revealed, and a handset could be as cheap as 1,000 yuan (HK$1,135).

The plan is for 5G mobile phones to move toward low and medium price levels by the end of next year. That could see some 5G mobile phone prices falling into a price bracket of 1,000-2,000 yuan.

The mainland's largest telecommunications operator, China Mobile also announced yesterday that it will be setting up a 30-billion-yuan 5G industry fund. It has in fact already raised the first capital requirement of 7-10 billion yuan.

The company's package of 5G plans that was unveiled at a media conference in Shanghai includes 200G data, 1,000 minutes of airtime, and 100 messages per month, though such services will be reserved for established customers at the outset.

China Mobile vice president Jian Qin said the unit price for the 5G data would not be higher than that for 4G data and fees would be based on a basic package plus alternative additional services.

And chairman Yang Jie said that more than 50,000 base stations are being set up across the mainland this year, which will mesh with the plan to offer 5G commercialized services for users in over 50 cities.

China Mobile, he added, would then expand 5G network coverage next year. The intention is to offer 5G services in all large cities.

Yang also said China Mobile will invest 3 billion yuan into developing 5G content such as ultra-high definition videos and games.

The firm handed out the first batch of 5G terminals - more than 10,000 units, including 11 products - at the media conference. These take in smartphone brands including Huawei, Vivo, OPPO, ZTE, Xiaomi, Samsung, OnePlus, TCL and China Mobile.

The vice chief executive of China Mobile Li Huidi revealed that the terminals are expected to obtain national network access licenses next month and will be launched at the end of July.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a 2019 work plan to accelerate the study on 5G applications.

Li Guohua, the chief executive of China Unicom (Hong Kong), said at another event that the granting of the 5G licenses by the Chinese government in early June was a move that represented the start of the 5G commercialized era, saying it could trigger economic output of US$1.5 trillion (HK$11.7 trillion).

He expects the demand for international communications will increase with more and more Chinese companies expanding into overseas markets and foreign companies entering China.

Wu Qing, the vice mayor of Shanghai, said at the media event that there are already over 3,000 5G base stations in his city, and he expects that number to rise 13,000 by the end of this year.

Shanghai is also planning to set more than 100 industry standards for 5G applications.

Still, the US blacklisting of Huawei Technologies and other top Chinese tech companies is making it trickier for some mobile industry professionals to get down to business.

The Mobile World Congress Shanghai, China's largest forum for the mobile industry which starts today and runs until Friday, is being marked by almost daily salvos from the Trump administration aimed at Huawei and other technology companies.

Related to that, SoftBank's Japanese telecom unit selected Nokia Oyj and Ericsson AB as vendors for its next-generation wireless network, excluding long-time supplier Huawei.

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