BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - China is set to become the world's largest 5G market by 2025, with 460 million users of the next-generation superfast network, a report released on Wednesday (March 20) said.
This is expected to occur as the nation plays a pioneering role in constructing the network and experimenting with cutting-edge applications such as remote surgery, the report said.
The number of 5G users in China is forecast to be higher than that of Europe (205 million) and the United States (187 million) combined, according to the report released in Beijing by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), which represents more than 750 mobile operators worldwide.
Said GSMA director-general Mats Granryd: "After spending billions over the last decade deploying 4G networks to all corners of the country, Chinese mobile operators are now set to invest a further US$58 billion (S$78 billion) over the next two years to prepare for and begin 5G rollouts, laying the groundwork for China to become one of the world's leading 5G markets."
The mobile communications sector is expected to account for six trillion yuan (S$1.2 trillion) of China's national economy in 2023, up from 5.2 trillion yuan last year, the report added.
"China's mobile industry has been a key driver of economic growth, inclusion and modernisation - creating a new generation of digital consumers and transforming industry and society," Mr Granryd added.
The report came as China's big three mobile operators - China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom - roll out trial operations of 5G systems in a string of cities. They aim to fully commercialise the technology in 2020.
Mr Hu Houkun, rotating chairman of telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies, said 5G is not just 10 times faster than 4G.
Its massive capacity to connect things and extremely fast response speed will bring "revolutionary" changes, such as putting almost everything online to boost efficiency, Mr Hu said.
"These changes are right before our eyes," he said. "This year, 5G will also play a vital part in triggering explosive growth in virtual reality and augmented reality because it can solve all the technological bottlenecks that are blocking the industry's development."
Last Saturday, with technological support from Huawei and China Mobile, a patient with Parkinson's disease underwent China's first 5G-based remote surgery.
A doctor in the southern Hainan province remotely controlled surgical instruments to implant a deep brain stimulator known as a "brain pacemaker" into the patient who was around 2,500km away in Beijing.
Mr Wang Jianzhou, former chairman of China Mobile, said the surgery marks a big step in applying 5G to traditional sectors.
"The era of 5G is just around the corner, for the global community has moved beyond just talking about network construction. Instead, they are working hard to experiment with application scenarios," he said.
China's traditional sectors are keen to partner telecom companies to explore 5G, which is a significant trend because one of the greatest promises of 5G lies in its integration with a wide range of sectors, and China can play a leading role in the process, Mr Wang said.