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China says it will fast-track 5G commercial licences amid push back on Huawei’s overseas expansion

29/1 2019 15:45

China has pledged to fast track the issuance of 5G commercial licenses as part of an effort to boost domestic use of the next-generation mobile technology amid a US-led push back on the overseas ambitions of telecommunications equipment giant Huawei Technologies.

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a notice published on its website on Tuesday that it will speed up the granting of 5G commercial licenses to upgrade so-called information consumption in the country.

The move is part of a broader effort to boost domestic consumption. It also comes at a time when Huawei, which leads China's to become the leading supplier of advanced telecoms equipment to the world's mobile carriers, facing growing pressure from the US, where some politicians consider it an arm of the Chinese government.

The US filed charges on Monday against Huawei, contending that the Chinese smartphone and network gear maker had trade secrets from a telecoms rival and violated US sanctions against doing business with Iran.

There is also heightened scrutiny on Huawei in other countries - including Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - where their governments have either banned or are reviewing whether to allow Huawei equipment for their telecoms networks.

NDRC did not provide a specific timetable on when China will grant commercial 5G licenses. Earlier this year, authorities said they would issue temporary 5G licenses to promote the application and construction of the next-generation mobile technology to push forward the development of new 5G hardware, including smartphones and wearable devices.

The central government also awarded China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom with 5G spectrum licences at the end of 2018, enabling them to conduct final trials for the new mobile system before its wider commercial roll-out set for 2020.

Wen Ku, a senior information and communications officer at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday that the 5G networks are ready for “pre-commercialisation” after the completion of the latest tests.

Wen expects mature 5G devices to roll out by mid-2019 because smartphone makers and chip suppliers have been making rapid progress in developing 5G-based devices.

According to data from the Internet Society of China, the information consumption market in China, which includes all services and products that rely on an internet connection - including connected cars, wearable devices and service robots - was worth 5 trillion yuan (US $ 741 billion) in 2018, accounting for about 6 per cent of the country's GDP.