China’s Investments in 5G Power Ahead in 5G … Paving the Way for 5G-Advanced-Based Services

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By Jake Saunders | 1Q 2023 | IN-6801

Investment in 5G in China shows no signs of slowing down—US$20 billion from January to September 2022 alone. With 5G subscriptions standing at more than 32%, China’s mobile operators are looking to 5G-Advanced to keep the innovation cycle going.

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US$20 Billion Investment in 5G and Counting


In late December 2022, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) announced the January to September 2022 reported fixed and mobile investment in the telecoms industry. Over that period, China posted a US$42.8 billion investment in telco fixed assets, up 7.3% Year-over-Year, with US$20 billion invested in 5G. Investment in 5G has represented between 35% and 48% of total telco construction-related investment. China has been on an accelerated rollout plan for 5G. That commitment to investment in 5G over the past 3 years has seen the number of 5G base stations eclipse a staggering 2.1 million. The number of 5G subscriptions stood at 542 million at the end of November 2022, representing 32.2% of the total number of 1.68 billion mobile phone subscriptions. China’s mobile networks are now taking steps to prepare their network for the much anticipated availability of 5G-Advanced, the features of which were codified as a package (Release 18) in December 2021 by The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). The Release 18 standard should be frozen (stage 3) by December 2023.

The Potential of 5G-Advanced


China’s mobile operator plans for 5G-Advanced are in the process of being developed. China Mobile intends to promote the convergence between 5G innovation and industrial supply chains with a focus on high-capacity, intelligent, and simplified networks. China Unicom is implementing smart vision applications, smart high-speed uplink, and smart high-fidelity sensors. The operator is guaranteeing 10 Gigabits per Second (Gbps) downlink, ~1 Gbps uplink, and using new spectrum in its deployments. China Telecom is putting an emphasis on time-critical applications. China Telecom’s “Super TimeFreq Folding” vision will use 100 Megahertz (MHz) of bandwidth in the 3.5 Gigahertz (GHz) band, which can support 1 Gbps uploads and latencies that approach 4 Milliseconds (ms), end to end.

5G-Advanced holds significant promise not just for Chinese telcos, but for all telcos and their customers. 5G-Advanced could make a 10 Gbps network experience very viable at sub-10 ms latencies and enhanced reliability. The 5G-Advanced upgrades presaged in 3GPP Release 18 do offer the mobile telco a number of advanced capabilities:

  • Evolution in New Radio (NR)-Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO): Enhancements for downlink/uplink throughput, coverage, lower power consumption, and size/weight.
  • Mobility Enhancements: Reducing handover latency by improving layer one and layer two-based inter-cell mobility.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) in the End-to-End 5G System: Applying AI/ML to optimize deployment decision-making, network energy saving, Channel State Information (CSI) feedback, beam management, and positioning.
  • Network Energy Savings: Defining the network energy consumption model, evaluation methodology, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and power consumption reduction techniques under various deployment scenarios, e.g., Urban Micro in mid-band (Frequency Range 1 (FR1)), and Millimeter Wave (mmWave) (FR2) spectrum deployments for beam-based scenarios with Massive MIMO (mMIMO).
  • Enhancements for Extended Reality (XR): Specifying Radio Access Network (RAN) support for XR-specific Quality of Service (QoS) and KPIs for both system-level and end-user experience. This work depends on the outcome of Release 17 (R17), which hasn’t been finalized.
  • Precise Positioning and Time Resilience: With 5G-Advanced radio access, the location accuracy can reach centimeter-level for both outdoor and indoor coverage without satellites.

Telcos Need to Offer Rich, Embedded Experiences


5G-Advanced has the potential to merge distributed computing with stored data information, and allow very low-latency computation and analysis for a wide range of industrial and commercial applications. This would not only remove bottlenecks in computing, but could serve to balance out the use of data center resources. China’s telcos are seeing the potential of 5G-Advanced. Indeed, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) market with its diverse range of enterprise applications is very much at the forefront of 5G-to-Business (5GtoB) development. 5GtoB is witnessing the evolution of digital services from voice communications, messaging, and web browsing, to integrated video streaming and collaborative applications, such as digital whiteboards and group-prepared presentations and media experiences. In the industrial sector, sensors, AI, robotics, and asset tracking are being integrated into personnel work processes. 5G-Advanced is an opportunity to ensure that not just Chinese mobile operators, but all mobile telcos are not just the “data pipe” for these applications, but even integral to the experience.



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