Race for 5G
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2019 - 12:00am

With China having recently announced the rollout of 5G network services in 50 of its cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, through its three state-owned telecommunication companies (China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom), the reality of this new technology has become more imminent.

Next year, analysts predict that China will have 110 million users (more than the whole population of the Philippines) on 5G, making it truly the world leader in utilizing the fifth generation mobile phone technology.

China will have the capability to run valuable tests on how 5G will revolutionize the way we work, play, think, even breathe. How the culled information is translated to boosting its domestic productivity and dominance in the world economic order will be crucial to the country’s strategic direction. 

Unlike Korea, which is the world’s first country to roll out 5G on a commercial basis, China is ahead where it matters: building base stations that will receive and transmit signals at super fast speeds. Unlike 4G towers that can process signals within a wider area, 5G stations need to be nearer each other.

In Shanghai, for example, close to 12,000 5G base stations are operating to provide its subscribers with the necessary bandwidth power that can make video streaming of high definition movies possible in seconds, or making video conferencing calls without any lag time.

Korea’s experience

Koreans, especially those within the Seoul’s central district that have enjoyed 5G services since the April official launch, are leading in real-time exploration and experience of how life can be in this new-generation internet connection.

New apps are being developed that maximize the 700 megabits per second (mbps) speeds of 5G on enabled smartphones. Bloggers who livestream on YouTube, for example, find almost no delay in uploads, and in higher resolution, an impossible feat when on 4G’s 30 to 50 mbps speeds.

Aside from videos, gaming and smart cars are some of the areas that have shown popularly accepted applications, although the latter may take time to become a reality, not because self-driving vehicle technologies are lacking, but because the communication infrastructure for interconnecting data to enable smart driving to happen will need a concentration of thousands of base stations.

Korea has a K-City with 360,000 square meters of road and highways outside of Seoul where self-driving cars are being tested in traffic situations. It is still very much in a pilot stage, but the learning derived from it has given the Korean government valuable insight for transforming its urban areas into smart connected cities.

More countries

More countries are expected to move to full 5G next year following China’s launch. For now, Korea and the US have 5G in selected areas only, although Korea’s telecommunications industry is taking the technology to new commercial levels by offering it to other countries.

China, for now, has only Huawei actively promoting 5G in other countries, but it is impeded by the US’s campaign to discourage its allies from patronizing Huawei equipment on allegations that China would use the technology for espionage, something that the Shenzhen-based company repeatedly denies.

Singapore plans to launch its 5G services next year, with the goal of expanding coverage to one half of the whole island by 2023. Tests are already ongoing in the country, and of particular interest would be the results of their trials for a smart city at the Singapore Science Park.

Japan has also recently committed to supporting the deployment of 5G, in an apparent bid to keep up with Korea and China. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, for example, is offering more areas where base stations may be set up to accelerate the city’s 5G network development.

The Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to roll out 5G, although at a much slower speed of 100 mbps and in very select sites. Like many developing countries, the challenge will be making 5G profitable for its telecommunication companies, especially since compatible smartphones are still beyond the reach of many people.


The takeoff of 5G in many countries will not be seen in five or even a decade, and many will just have to watch from the sidelines to understand how this new technology will bring the far-reaching changes that have been talked about in the world that we know today.

Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and many phrases that are becoming today’s buzzwords will find other meanings as 5G technology creates the means to flesh out new ways of working and spawn previously unimagined lifestyles.

Not only are industries looking forward to improved productivity and efficiency from the marriage of robotics and 5G. Governments, too, are seeing the potential of 5G, so much so that many of those have offered subsidies mainly in building base stations.

For instance, South Korea has offered lower taxes on 5G to support applications in vertical industries. The Shenzhen government is giving a set amount of money for every standalone 5G base station deployed, with telecom operators able to receive up to CNY150 million. Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait have invested heavily to build 5G-based smart cities. The US is setting aside $20.4 billion to support broadband coverage in rural areas, and Germany is investing 20 billion euros to build 5G base stations.

Such enlightened governments believe that being ahead in adopting 5G buys them the best position to define new standards, as well as lead in the development of new industries. Thus, for them, embracing 5G is not just an option, but a necessity.

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Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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