According to a January 21,2024 article in the South China Morning Post, Nokia is set to exit its joint venture with Huawei in the telecommunications sector due to US-China tensions. Nokia has found new buyers for its majority stake in a Beijing-based joint venture with Huawei Technologies, after a proposed deal fell through last year following strong protest by the Chinese partner. The article states that Nokia will sell its majority stake in TD Tech [1.] to a group that will be jointly controlled by Huawei and a group of entities that include the government-owned Chengdu High-Tech Investment Group and Chengdu Gaoxin Jicui Technology Co, as well as venture capital firm Huagai, according to a disclosure published on Friday by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR).
Huawei had a 14% share in the Chinese smartphone market in the third quarter 2023, putting it in fifth place behind its spin-off Honor and rivals Oppo, Vivo and Apple, data from market intelligence firm Counterpoint Research showed. According to Statista, Huawei had a 58% share of all 5G base stations in China as of the 3rd quarter 2023. Its closest competitor was ZTE with a market share of 31%. Nokia had only a 2% market share.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said that in the first eleven months of 2023, the telecommunication industry’s collective business revenue soared to 1.55 trillion yuan, approximately 218 billion U.S. dollars, marking a 6.9% year-on-year increase.
Emerging sectors such as big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have shown significant growth. China’s three state owned network providers, China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom have leveraged these technologies to catalyze a 20.1 percent surge in revenue from these areas, amounting to 332.6 billion yuan.
Cloud computing and big data have experienced explosive growth. Revenue from cloud computing surging by 39.7 percent and big data by 43.3 percent compared to the previous year. These figures underscore the central role of data-driven technologies in powering China’s telecom industry forward.
Broadband internet services continue to be a strong revenue stream for the three telecom giants, generating 240.4 billion yuan from January to November, which is an 8.5 percent increase year on year. This growth reflects the increasing demand for high-speed internet across China, as the country continues to embrace digital transformation in all sectors.
In conclusion, China’s telecommunication industry’s growth narrative in 2023 is not just a story of numbers but a chronicle of technological evolution and its integration into the fabric of society. With emerging sectors leading the charge, the industry’s upward trajectory seems poised to continue, as these technologies become increasingly embedded in the everyday lives of businesses and consumers alike.
Separately, Mordor Intelligence forecasts the China Telecom Market size is expected to grow from USD 478.92 billion in 2023 to USD 547.43 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 2.71% during the forecast period (2023-2028).
Every single telecom operator in the world is now attempting to transform from telco to techco, to break free from their antiquated, legacy, and stale connectivity business and evolve to sell technology platforms, a considerably more lucrative and promising business. Their success is not guaranteed, and many find it difficult – if not impossible – to unshackle themselves from their history and comfort zone.
ABI Research now says it’s measuring the progress of telco transformation by quantifying the number of patents that telcos hold and also measuring their involvement in standards-setting initiatives like 3GPP (whose specs are standardized by ETSI and ITU-R).
Telecom operators from China and Japan are currently at the forefront of technology transformation, which shows in their involvement in 3GPP and patent holdings,” says Dimitris Mavrakis, Senior Research Director at ABI Research. “China Mobile, NTT Docomo, and China Telecom have invested time, effort, and capital in both domains, which now translates to significant expertise, knowledge, and recognition in the industry. Although this is not the only metric for innovation, these leading network operators are well suited to transforming their business, technology, and strategic platforms to look to the future.”
The findings of the latest ABI Research report on telecom operator innovation indicate that they consistently contribute to 3GPP work, approximately 8% of the total contribution. Of these telecom operator contributions to 3GPP, 43% originate from China, 29% from Japan, 14% from Europe, and 12% from the United States. Leading operators are China Mobile, NTT Docomo, China Telecom, Orange, Vodafone, and Deutsche Telekom. Their Standards Essential Patent (SEP) holdings are similar, with China Mobile and NTT Docomo leading the market.
Standards contributions and patent holdings are good measures of willingness to innovate and get involved in leading the market. “Telecom operators must get involved and not let other companies lead the direction of the market – especially when geopolitics and semiconductor supply constraints are affecting the market. With 5G Advanced and upcoming 6G, they have the technology to innovate, but they must now take more risks and lead the market,” Mavrakis concludes.
Fierce Wireless asked why T-Mobile didn’t rank, given the good progress that it’s made with its 5G SA network and network slicing trials. Mavrakis said, “T-Mobile US is part of Deutsche Telekom, which is represented in the chart above. They are indeed making progress toward network slicing, but our report measures 3GPP standards activities and patents, which is a different area of innovation.”
These findings are from ABI Research’s Telco versus Techco: Operators’ Role in Shaping Cellular Innovation and 3GPP Standards application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Cellular Standards & IPR research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific application, which could focus on an individual market or geography.
Separately, ABI Research says 5G end-user services deployment continue to accelerate in China, which is very much leaving other markets in its wake. Not only does it have 3.2 million 5G base stations up and running, but also a wide range of 5G-to-Business (5GtoB) applications.
According to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the country has built or upgraded more than 3.2 million 5G base stations—accounting for 30% of the overall mobile base stations nationwide—which has already exceeded the initial target of deploying 2.9 million 5G base stations by the end of 2023. A fourth mobile operator, China Broadnet, has also been issued a 5G mobile cellular license to help stimulate consumer and enterprise competition.
5G subscriber adoption has been robust. At the end of 1Q 2023, the number of 5G subscriptions in the country had increased to around 1.3 billion, which is an increase of more than 53% from approximately 850 million 5G subscribers as of March 2022. The China Telecom Research Institute reported that the average download speed for 5G is a very robust 340 Megabits per Second (Mbps).
China’s mobile operators have seen an overall increase in service revenue. China Mobile reported an 8.1% Year-over-Year (YoY) increase in telecommunication service revenue, with mobile Average Revenue per User (ARPU) up 0.4% to CNY49 (US$6.9). China Telecom also reported a 3.7% YoY increase in mobile communications service revenue with mobile ARPU up 0.4% to CNY45.2 (US$6.3), whereas China Unicom saw a 3-year consecutive growth in mobile ARPU to CNY44.3 (US$6.2).
Growth in revenue has been primed by an expansion in revenue models the telcos can offer. Revenue for China Mobile’s 5G private networks also saw an increase of 107.4% YoY growth, reaching RMB2.55 billion (US$365.5 million) by December 2022. Meanwhile, China Unicom experienced a spike in 5G industry virtual private network customers from 491 to 5,816 between June 2022 and June 2023. Across the board, the three operators have collectively reached a cumulative total of more than 49,000 5G commercial enterprise projects, with China’s MIIT reporting that the operators have built more than 6,000 5G private networks, to date.
China’s mobile cellular ecosystem is not resting on its laurels. Urged on by China’s government, the sector has been embracing 5G-Advanced, as underpinned by The 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) Release 18. Included in Release 18 are greater support for Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration, 10 Gigabits per Second (Gbps) for peak downlink and 1 Gbps for peak uplink experience, supporting a wider range of Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios, and integrated sensing & communication. Information gathered through sensors can enable communication to be more deterministic, which improves the accuracy of channel conditions assessment. Another example is dynamic beam alignment for vehicle communications using Millimeter Wave (mmWave). China’s mobile operators and vendors are keen to adopt 5G-Advanced due to its ability to support a 10X densification of IoT devices compared to 5G. There is also support for passive 5G IoT devices that can be queried by campus and/or indoor small cells to provide telemetry-related data. Instead of a field or warehouse worker, or even an Autonomous Guided Vehicle (AGV) with a portable Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) reader, the campus cellular network can track asset tags in real time and remotely—eliminating the need to check up and down warehouse aisles individually.
5G-Advanced (not yet standardized) deployments are materializing in China. China Mobile Hangzhou launched its Dual 10 Gigabit City project in early 2023. This project focuses on using 5G-Advanced technologies to support applications such as glasses-free Three-Dimensional (3D) experiences on different devices during the Asian Games. Such early experimental projects are not limited to only one city in China. To the northeast of Hangzhou, China Mobile Shanghai has also started its own project to build the first 5G-Advanced intelligent 10 Gigabit Everywhere City (10 GbE City). The network is built using the 2.6 Gigahertz (GHz) network initially for the main urban areas before expanding the coverage to the entirety of Shanghai.
5G deployment, integration, and usage is accelerating. The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology anticipates that US$232 billion will have been invested in 5G by 2025. An additional US$37.9 billion (RMB3.5 trillion) of investment will also take place in the upstream and downstream segments of the industrial chain. During a 2023 Science and Technology Week and Strategic Emerging Industries Co-creation and Development Conference, MIIT stated that 5G connectivity has been integrated into “60 out of 97 national economic categories, covering over 12,000 application themes.” ABI Research has not verified all the use cases reported by MIIT, but ABI Research’s ongoing research into the 5G-to-Business (5GtoB) market in Asia has validated that there are a wide range of 5GtoB trials, pilots, and commercial rollouts taking place in China.
A further ABI Insight that you may find interesting is “China Telecom Is the First Operator Worldwide to Launch a “Device-to-Device” Service on a Smartphone to Improve Coverage.”
About ABI Research:
ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm delivering actionable research and strategic guidance to technology leaders, innovators, and decision makers around the world. Our research focuses on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces today.
6th Digital China Summit: China to expand its 5G network; 6G R&D via the IMT-2030 (6G) Promotion Group
Huawei reported a flat third quarter, with sales of 145.7 billion Chinese yuan ($19.9 billion), up just 1% over last year and a net profit margin of 16.0%. The Shenzhen based telecom equipment and mobile phone vendor said the profit margin had been boosted by the latest tranche from the sale of the Honor handset assets three years ago. It said improved efficiencies and optimized sales and product strategies had also had a positive impact on profitability.
“The company’s performance is in line with forecast,” said Ken Hu, Huawei’s Rotating Chairman. “I’d like to thank our customers and partners for their ongoing trust and support. Moving forward, we will continue to increase our investment in R&D to make the most of our business portfolio and take the competitiveness of our products and services to new heights. As always, our goal is to create greater value for our customers, partners, and society.”
Huawei reported growth in the consumer business unit and “strong growth” in the new digital power and cloud businesses, but the company was silent on its carrier equipment unit, its largest, suggesting it has also been hit by the decline in operator spending.
Huawei smartphone summary:
Huawei was the fastest-growing smartphone maker in China in the third quarter after the company released a smartphone with a surprisingly advanced chip inside.
- In September, Huawei launched the Mate 60 Pro in China. It’s equipped with an advanced chip and 5G connectivity, technology that U.S. sanctions had been designed to stop Huawei getting its hands on.
- The success of that device helped Huawei’s smartphone sales in China grow 37% year on year, according to a report from Counterpoint Research.
- Sales of Honor, the largest smartphone maker by market share, rose just 3% year on year. Vivo, Oppo and Apple all saw double-digit declines, according to Counterpoint Research.
China will ratchet up resources to advance the construction of its 5G network, expand the application of 5G technology in various fields, and promote the research and development of 6G, officials and experts said at the 6th Digital China Summit, which ended on Friday in Fuzhou, Fujian province.
“China has built the world’s largest 5G network with the most advanced technologies. The number of the country’s 5G base stations had exceeded 2.64 million by the end of March this year,” said Zhao Ce, deputy head of the information and telecommunications development department at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Zhao said the ministry will make more efforts to bolster the building of the 5G network in an orderly manner and accelerate its industrial applications, push forward the R&D of 6G, and strengthen international exchange and communication in 5G-related technology, standards and application. 5G wireless technology has been used in 52 of the 97 major economic categories, with large-scale application expanded to mining, ports and electricity, he said. Moreover, China has already established the IMT-2030 (6G) Promotion Group, a flagship platform in China promoting 6G and international cooperation.
As 5G technology serves as a critical foundation supporting the development of artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing, heightened efforts should be made to explore application scenarios of 5G and empower the transformation of traditional industries, said Zhang Wang, deputy head of the informatization development bureau of the Cyberspace Administration of China.
China has recently unveiled a plan for the overall layout of the country’s digital development, vowing to make important progress in the construction of a digital China by 2025, with effective interconnectivity in digital infrastructure, a significantly improved digital economy, and major breakthroughs achieved in digital technology innovation.
Cao Ming, president of the wireless product line at Huawei Technologies, said China is taking the lead in 5G development across the globe, and 5G is expected to play a bigger role in bolstering digitalization in a wide range of sectors covering intelligent connected vehicles and intelligent transportation.
6G is the upcoming sixth-generation cellular network technology that is currently in early development. One of the goals of 6G cellular technology is not just to deliver basic content faster to smartphones, like streaming video, but to create a cellular network capable of supporting real-time augmented reality, virtual reality, and a future Internet of Things (IoT) model where small smart devices are a ubiquitous presence in and outside of our homes.
When reading anything about 6G, especially the breathless and hype-laden announcements from telecommunications companies that emphasize how 6G will usher in the metaverse, a fusion of our physical and virtual lives, and so on, you should keep the “early” part of early development in mind.
Currently, there are no established 6G specifications or standards, let alone deployed 6G networks or devices. Even the most basic aspects of 6G development, like which specific frequencies the next generation cellular technology will rely on, are still being ironed out along with technical challenges like energy and heat dissipation demands of advanced 6G devices.
That said, we do have some idea what 6G will look like. Current cellular technology operates in the Megahertz (MHz) and the lower Gigahertz (GHz) frequency ranges. The portion of the radio spectrum under consideration and testing for 6G includes frequencies in the 30-300 Ghz range—also known as millimeter waves (mmWave) or Extremely High Frequency (EHF) radio—and the Terahertz (THz) frequency up to 3000 Ghz. The use of these frequencies will allow for data transmission well beyond the bandwidth capacity of current cellular technology.
In December of 2022, Qualcomm released a 6G development plan with 2030 as a projected rollout date for 6G tech. Ericsson’s 6G messaging echoes the early 2030s timeframe too, as do various interviews with telecom executives.
5G was first introduced in 2019. Four years later, there are still millions of cellular subscribers using 4G, and 5G is yet to have a fully realized coast-to-coast rollout. GSMA’s authoritative 2023 Mobile Economy report, for instance, indicates North American adoption rate of 5G is only 39%, with more than half of cellular subscribers still using 4G. By their projections, the North American 5G adoption rate will be 91% by 2030, meaning by the time 6G potentially arrives, there will still be 4G subscribers out there.
China’s MIIT to prioritize 6G project, accelerate 5G and gigabit optical network deployments in 2023
HKBN reported it had a 34 per cent share of Hong Kong’s residential broadband market and 37 per cent of the enterprise market at end-2022. In late March, HKBN’s board said it was approached about a potential take over by I Squared Asia Advisors, the same asset management company that owns Hong Kong ISP HGC Global Communications.
Others showing interest include global investment company PAG, Bloomberg wrote, noting potential buyers may team with HKBN management for a buy out.
A sale in 2022 was halted by potential buyers including KKR and PAG due to concerns over the valuation.
HKBN was sold to CVC Capital Partners in 2012 in a management buy out and was listed in 2014.
Reuters reports that China state-owned telecom firms are developing a $500 million undersea fiber-optic internet cable network that would link Asia, the Middle East and Europe to rival a similar U.S.-backed project, four people involved in the deal told Reuters. The plan is a sign that an intensifying tech war between Beijing and Washington risks tearing the fabric of the internet.
Liu said early 6G “application scenarios” will be introduced by 2025 in China, home to the world’s largest internet user population and biggest smartphone market, which has been conducting research and development on the technology since 2019. He said the commercial launch of 6G in China is expected to start from 2030, according to a report by local media National Business Daily.
At the same event, China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology Jin Zhuanglong said in his speech that China was leading the pace of 6G research and development worldwide. He said the country is already ahead in rolling out 5G mobile networks and applications.
The statements made at the CDF about China’s 6G efforts have come after the Global 6G Conference, held from March 22 to 24 in Nanjing, where telecommunications industry experts reached a consensus that 6G mobile services in the country will start to roll out by early 2030.
The country’s three telecoms network operators – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom – have all been reported to be involved in early 6G research and development, as they also expedited the roll-out of 5G infrastructure and services across the country.
Tensions between Beijing and Washington, however, have led to major telecoms equipment suppliers Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp being handicapped by various US sanctions, including access to advanced IC’s used in smartphones and networking gear.
In spite of the disruptions caused by US pressure and the coronavirus pandemic, China has already built the world’s largest 5G mobile network, with more than 2.31 million 5G base stations deployed at the end of last year, according to MIIT data.
This year will mark the beginning of a long journey for 6G, as new studies are initiated by more countries and organisations around the world, according to a report last month by the non-profit telecoms industry body the GSMA.
The ITU-R World Radiocommunication Conference in November (WRC 23) is expected to set the spectrum foundations for 6G, the GSMA report said. Spectrum refers to the radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry and other sectors for communications over the airwaves.
China’s MIIT to prioritize 6G project, accelerate 5G and gigabit optical network deployments in 2023
NTT DOCOMO & SK Telecom Release White Papers on Energy Efficient 5G Mobile Networks and 6G Requirements
China’s government has selected 6G as one of its priority projects for 2023. At a national conference on industry and information technology, the Ministry for Industry and IT (MIIT) Jin Zhuanglong, said China intends to push forward in “comprehensive” development of 6G this year. In 2023, China will introduce policies and measures to promote coordinated development of new information infrastructure construction and accelerate the construction of 5G and gigabit optical networks, Jin said. MIIT will also improve policies on telecom market development, and strengthen the protection of personal information and users’ rights and interests.
Editor’s Note: Work on 6G has not yet started in either 3GPP or ITU-R WP 5D. The latter SDO is progressing draft reports on the vision of IMT for 2030 and Beyond, but no 6G requirements will be identified.
More than 2.3 million 5G base stations have been put into service, and notable progress has been made in the construction of new data centers, according to the conference.
In recent years, China has intensified efforts to promote the construction of new information infrastructure, deepen the construction of 5G, gigabit optical network and industrial internet, and promote the deep integration of the digital economy and the real economy.
Image Credit: Alan Novelli/Alamy Stock Photo
At the end of last year China Telecom issued a white paper setting out its vision for 6G. Written by the China Telecom Research Institute, the paper proposes a distributed and intelligent programmable RAN (P-RAN) network architecture and what it calls a “three-layer and four-sided” framework. The white paper notes that because of the cost of building out the dense mmWave or terahertz-band networks, it will be essential to provide device-to-device connectivity.
Six months ago, heavyweight China Mobile issued its own 6G vision, calling for “three bodies, four layers and five sides.”
China’s other 6G news is a call for proposals on potential key technologies from the national coordinating body, the IMT-2030 6G Promotion Group. According to an English-language statement posted by CAICT, the main objectives are “to inspire university-academy-industry-association entities for technology innovations, gather and form a rich reserve of 6G potential key technologies, and support 6G research, standardization, and industrial R&D.”
Non-Chinese universities and research organizations are welcome to apply ahead of the deadline in November 2023. The proposed solutions should have “application and promotion value for 6G innovation and development,” and the key technical indicators should be capable of being evaluated and verified, the statement said.
Excerpts of ITU-R preliminary draft new Report: FUTURE TECHNOLOGY TRENDS OF TERRESTRIAL IMT SYSTEMS TOWARDS 2030 AND BEYOND
China will debut the world’s first cruise ship covered by a 5G network later this year, due to a collaboration between CSSC Carnival Cruise Shipping Ltd’s own cruise brand Adora Cruises and China Telecom Corp Ltd Shanghai Branch. Adora Cruises [1.] has partnered with Shanghai Telecom, a major 5G network service provider in China, to bring 5G connectivity to its first China-built large cruise ship. This partnership marks a major milestone, as it is the first time a 5G network has been installed on a cruise ship in the world and sets a new standard for connectivity and convenience, according to a press release on Thursday.
Note 1. Adora Cruises is part of CSSC Carnival Cruise Shipping Limited, a joint venture between shipbuilder China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) and U.S.-based leisure travel company Carnival Corporation.
“From network layout, satellite communication, to various digital applications, our goal is to deliver seamless multimedia interactions and consistent mobile connectivity for guests and crew, allowing them to stay connected with loved ones and the world while at sea,” said Chen Ranfeng, Managing Director of CSSC Carnival Cruise Shipping Limited. “By seizing a first-mover advantage in the cruise industry’s 5G market, we hope to set a new standard for digital communication in the marine travel sector.”
Adora Cruises is working towards a future where guests can enjoy an enhanced cruise experience with 5G connectivity and access to all-around multimedia and real-time interaction, the company said.
Image Courtesy of CSSC Carnival Cruise Company
“Combining 5G and satellite technology, we will focus on network communication, digital high-definition, AR/VR and other content services to further improve our guest experience and jointly promote high-quality development of the tourism economy,” said Gong Bo, general manager of Shanghai Telecom. “By seizing a first-mover advantage in the cruise industry’s 5G market, we hope to set a new standard for digital communication in the marine travel sector,” said Ranfeng.
The cruise company’s first two China-built large cruise ships are currently under construction at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Corp, and will be operated under the brand name of Adora in the future.
The first 135,500-gross-ton Adora cruise ship is expected to start its journey by the end of 2023, while the second vessel is currently still being designed and constructed.