Beijing Authorities Push Rapid 5G Deployment Despite COVID-19 Headwinds (Translation)

A MIIT notice calls for minimizing the 'influence of the novel coronavirus' and building 5G health, transportation, and entertainment sectors
Blog Post
Macau Photo Agency / Unsplash
April 21, 2020


The Chinese government last month ordered 5G infrastructure vendors and telecommunications carriers to continue an aggressive roll-out of high-speed mobile networks across the country. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT)’s notice, translated in full by DigiChina below, calls for “accelerating the pace of 5G network construction” while minimizing the “influence of the novel coronavirus.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has concrete implications for China’s 5G development. Pandemic-related disruptions to technology supply chains, both within China and in surrounding countries that supply key inputs for 5G base stations and smartphones, have slowed production. Still, new infrastructure is a key pillar of Chinese stimulus as the country slowly recovers from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The Chinese government has several levers it can pull to keep 5G deployments on track: The carriers leading the country’s 5G buildout are state-backed, as is China Tower, a key infrastructure firm providing base station and fiber backhaul support. A public-private partnership model has also provided channels for clearly signaling government intent and maintaining industry alignment with official priorities.

The new MIIT notice specifically cites industrial internet, the “Internet of Vehicles,” and healthcare as focus areas. And it prescribes types of 5G-dependant consumer uses that content providers and mobile phone companies should invest in to speed adoption among the general public: 5G-enabled virtual reality or augmented reality, live broadcasts, games, etc.

China’s first non-standalone (NSA) 5G networks went live in November 2019. Two of China’s leading telecom carriers, China Unicom and China Telecom, are reportedly planning to complete a major portion of the initial build out of their 5G networks by the end of September, three months ahead of schedule.

After entering an infrastructure-sharing agreement last year, the two companies initially aimed to roll out 100,000 5G base stations across 47 cities in the first half of 2020, the communications networking industry publication Light Reading reported. The companies claimed late last month that 64,000 of their 5G base stations were operating as of late February, extending coverage across the majority of the mainland’s biggest cities and provincial capitals. China’s largest carrier, China Mobile, aims to install 300,000 5G base stations by the end of 2020.

The updated information from the two carriers follows signals sent by Communist Party leadership and MIIT for Chinese carriers to continue prioritizing their 5G rollout. In late February, as the coronavirus crisis intensified, MIIT called on telecom infrastructure providers to accelerate the installation of next-generation networks in what mobile industry group GSMA has forecast to be the world’s largest 5G market by 2025 with 460 million users. China Tower has continued to build out base station and fiber optic infrastructure during the crisis, as Beijing has pushed the firm to ensure that advanced communications are made available.

As rollout proceeds, government focus will turn to 5G use cases

Barring a major COVID-19 flare-up that prolongs disruptions to supply chains, widespread coverage of Chinese cities via NSA networks should be largely completed by the autumn. Beijing and Chinese carriers are already looking at the second phase of 5G deployment, so-called full standalone (SA) 5G. Non-standalone 5G is primarily aimed at the consumer market, and effectively extends 4G LTE infrastructure to offer much higher data speeds.

The second phase, full standalone 5G, will provide additional capabilities, such as ultra-reliable low-latency and massive machine-type communications (URLLC and mMTC in industry shorthand). These features, which are the key to tapping the full economic potential of 5G, require substantial investments in new infrastructure such as antennas and base stations. The transition to 5G will fulfil commitments in China’s current Five-Year Plan to ubiquitous next-generation information infrastructure, and in China’s Informationization Development Strategic Outline to build an internationally leading mobile communications network by 2025.

Standalone 5G is integral to several priority areas highlighted in China’s Made in China 2025 industrial upgrade strategy, focused on boosting China’s high-tech capabilities, including advanced manufacturing. Smart factories using high levels of automation will almost certainly require some SA 5G capabilities. Another important sector for Beijing is autonomous and connected vehicles, which will require the low-latency communications part of SA 5G.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, plans depending on complex supply chains and industrial systems—what government documents like the one below refers to as “ecologies”—are never guaranteed. The MIIT’s guidance and broader Chinese government efforts, however, indicate a determination to achieve progress in 5G and related fields as a high priority amongst many others.


[Chinese-language original]

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Notice on Promoting Accelerated 5G Development

MIIT Communications No. (2020) 49

All provincial, autonomous region, municipal, [National Social and Economic Development] Plan cities and Xinjiang Production-Construction Corps controlling departments for industry and informatization; wireless communications management bodies; all provincial, autonomous region, and municipal telecommunications management bureaus; China Telecom Group Co. Ltd., China Mobile Telecommunications Group Co. Ltd., China Unicom Telecommunications Group Co. Ltd., China Tower Co. Ltd., China Broadcast Network Co. Ltd.:

In order to deeply implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech concerning promoting the accelerated development of 5G networks; forcefully advance 5G network construction, usage, popularization, technology development, and security protection; give full rein to the effects of scale and driving role of new 5G infrastructure, and support high-quality economic development, hereby, relevant matters are notified as follows:

I. Arrangements for accelerating 5G network construction

(1) Accelerating the pace of 5G network construction. Basic telecommunications enterprises must: further optimize work processes such as equipment purchasing, survey and design, and engineering and construction; grasp project deadlines; and eliminate the influence of the novel coronavirus to the greatest extent. Support basic telecommunications enterprises to take 5G standalone (SA) networks as primary, and control the scale of non-standalone (NSA) network construction, accelerate the pace of network construction in major cities, and progressively extend coverage to key counties and towns that meet relevant conditions.

(2) Expanding support for base station site resources. Local governments are encouraged to include site resources required for 5G network construction and other supplementary facilities into land use plans at all levels, and to strictly implement matters in a controlled manner through detailed plans; when newly building or renovating projects such as public transport, public venues, park areas, buildings, etc., comprehensively consider the requirements for 5G station sites; accelerate opening up and sharing of public facilities and the society’s station site resources in electric power, transportation, public security, municipal administration, education, healthcare, etc. In regions with great support strength, basic telecommunications enterprises must expand investment and optimize the launching of 5G construction.

(3) Strengthening power and frequency guarantees. Basic telecommunications enterprises are supported in strengthening linkages with electric power enterprises; to accelerate the transformation from indirectly supplied power to directly supplied power in base stations, machine rooms, and other such supplementary facilities that meet conditions. Vigorously launch network greening transformations, and accelerate the spread of advanced energy-saving technologies and applications. Adjust 700MHz frequency band use plans, and accelerate the implementation of 5G frequency use licensing in the 700 MHz band; publish partial 5G millimeter wave spectrum use plans in a timely manner; launch research for a specialized frequency plan for the 5G sector, including the industrial, Internet and implement technical trial frequency licenses in a timely manner. Further complete interference coordination work between mid-band 5G base stations and terrestrial satellite stations, and other such wireless stations or facilities.

(4) Advancing network sharing and cross-network roaming. Further deepen joint construction and sharing of towers, indoor distribution systems, poles, conduits, and supplementary equipment. Guide basic telecommunications enterprises to strengthen coordination and cooperation, give full rein to market mechanisms, integrate and optimize resources, launch 5G network sharing and cross-network roaming, accelerate the creation of a network structure with multiple networks coexisting on poles in hotspot locations, and a single-network baseline in remote regions, and forge 5G networks with resource-intensive and high-efficiency operations.

II. Enriching the setting for 5G technology application

(5) Fostering novel consumption models. Basic telecommunications enterprises are encouraged to stimulate 5G terminal consumption and accelerate user migration to 5G through measures such as package upgrade offers, and credit purchases, etc. Popularize applications such as 5G+VR/AR, live match broadcasts, games and entertainment, virtual shopping, etc., to stimulate the consumption of new kinds of information. Basic telecommunications enterprises, radio and television media enterprises, and content providers., etc., are encouraged to strengthen coordination and enrich new kinds of multimedia content sources such as 4K/8K and VR/AR in sectors such as education, media, and entertainment.

(6) Promoting innovation and development of “5G+healthcare.” Launch the construction of smart 5G healthcare systems, build smart 5G healthcare demonstration networks and healthcare platforms, and accelerate the application and popularization of 5G in areas such as epidemic early warning, pre-hospital first aid, long-distance healthcare, smart image-assisted diagnosis, etc. Further optimize and popularize the outstanding application of 5G in counter-attacking the novel coronavirus epidemic, popularize services such as long-distance examinations, diagnosis and healthcare assistance, etc., and stimulate healthcare resource sharing.

(7) Implementing the “5G+industrial Internet” 512 Project. Build five industrial public service platforms, construct vehicles for innovation and public service capacity; accelerate the preliminary application of “5G+industrial Internet” in vertical areas, and intranet construction and transformation to cover 10 focus sectors; build a set of “5G+industrial Internet” intranet construction and transformation model networks and model projects, and create at least 20 large-scale industrial application settings. Make breakthroughs in a batch of key 5G technologies aimed at the specific requirements of the industrial Internet, clearly enhance the capacity of “5G+industrial Internet” to support the industrial base, and stimulate the converged and innovative development of “5G+industrial Internet.”

(8) Stimulating the coordinated development of “5g+Internet of Vehicles.” Promote the entry of the Internet of Vehicles (IoV) into national novel information infrastructure construction projects, and stimulate the deployment of LTE-V2X at scale. Build national-level Internet of Vehicles initiation regions, enrich application settings, and explore and perfect business models. Integrate the commercial deployment of 5G with guiding advance planning in focus areas, strengthen cross-departmental coordination, and promote the entry of 5G and LTE-V2X into important telecommunications standards and agreements for smart city and smart traffic construction. Launch research, development, and verification for 5G-V2X standards.

(9) Building ecological systems for 5G applications. Through platforms such as 5G application industry matrices, assemble all sides, including application demand, research and development, integration, capital, etc., to create smooth critical links for the popularization of 5G applications. Organize the third “Blossom Cup” 5G application recruitment competition, give prominence to application landing and implementation, foster innovative 5G application enterprises. Promote the development of the 5G Internet of Things. With innovation centres, joint research and development bases, incubation platforms, demonstration parks, etc., as vehicles, promote the integration, application, and innovation of 5G into all sectors and all fields.

III. Continuing to strengthen 5G technology research and development

(10) Strengthening research and development of 5G technology and standards. Organize the launch of 5G sector virtual private network research, development, and trials, and connect key segments including standards, technology, application, and deployment. Accelerate the research and development of 5G application models, support at-scale pan-terminal applications in industrial production and wearable devices. Continue to support research and development, engineering breakthroughs, and industrialization in focus areas such as 5G core semiconductors, key components, basic software, and instrumentation, to establish a foundation for industrial development.

(11) Organizing the launch of 5G trials and verification. Basic telecommunications enterprises (should) further optimize 5G SA equipment purchasing trial workflows, and, on the basis of the trial timetables determined in construction plans, stimulate the accelerated maturation of related equipment. Continue to launch 5G-enhanced technology research, development, and trials, organize interoperability trials for integrated circuits and systems at a broader scale, and accelerate technological and industrial maturation. Organize the launch of millimeter wave equipment and functioning trials in integration with the progress and arrangements of the national frequency plan, and prepare for the commercial use of 5G millimeter wave technology.

(12) Enhancing the innovation support capabilities of 5G technology. Support advanced enterprises to use 5G-integrated new technologies, build and provide sectoral cloud services, capability exploitation platforms, application development environments, and other such public platforms. Encourage the establishment of related open-source communities and open-source technology bases, and stimulate open application innovation. Accelerate the construction of 5G monitoring and certification platforms, enhance service capabilities in monitoring, testing, and certification for all segments, including 5G systems, terminals, services, and security, and reduce enterprises’ research, development, and application costs.

IV. Striving to build 5G security safeguard systems

(13) Strengthening security safeguards for 5G infrastructure. Accelerate the construction of 5G critical information infrastructure security safeguard systems, strengthen the cybersecurity protection of new targets such as 5G core systems, network slices, and mobile edge computing platforms. Build structures and mechanisms for dynamic risk assessment, key equipment monitoring and certification, etc. Research security protection guidelines and standards for typical applications and contexts. Launch construction trials of 5G security monitoring methods, and perfect security protection systems for dynamic cybersecurity sensing, threat control, incident handling, and source tracing.

(14) Strengthening 5G network data security protection. With a focus on all kinds of typical 5G technologies, the Internet of Vehicles, the industrial Internet and other such application contexts, complete and perfect data security management structures, standards, and norms. Build dynamic data security risk assessment and monitoring mechanisms for typical 5G contexts, and strengthen the operationalization of assessment results. Rationally divide responsibilities for data security and user personal information protection among network operators, sectoral service providers, etc.; clarify data security baseline requirements in the 5G environment; and strengthen supervision and law enforcement. Promote assessment and certification of data security compliance, build and perfect technical safeguard systems, and realistically enhance 5G data security protection levels.

(15) Fostering a 5G cybersecurity industry ecology. Strengthen transformation of 5G cybersecurity core technology key problems and results, and strengthen the provision of security services. Forcefully move forward the construction of national cybersecurity industrial parks, trials, and demonstrations; accelerate the fostering of pioneering enterprises in critical segments of 5G security industrial chains, stimulate the development of small and medium-size enterprises upstream and downstream in the industry, and create protection capabilities that integrate key technologies, products, and services. Vigorously innovate 5G security control models, promote the construction of security control mechanisms with participation from multiple subjects, jointly driven by multiple departments, and coordinating multiple sectors.

V. Strengthening organization and implementation

(16) Strengthening organizational leadership. All work units must establish and complete organizational leadership structures, ensure all key factors well, and make accelerating the development of 5G into an important work matter to grasp. Strengthen coordination and cooperation with controlling departments such as local construction, transportation, power, healthcare, and education departments, etc., and join forces to move all work concerning 5G construction and development forward.

(17) Strengthening responsible implementation. All local controlling departments for industry and information technology, wireless management bodies, and telecommunications management bureaus must further expand work strength, timely provide all detailed support policies and measures, and ensure that all policies are implemented satisfactorily. All basic telecommunications enterprises must give rein to their dominant role in doing all kinds of 5G work, such as research and development, trials, construction, application, security, etc., and well and forcefully advance 5G construction and development.

(18) Strengthening summaries and exchange. All work units must regularly comb through their experiences and methods, timely discover problems and insufficiencies, continuously adjust and optimize work measures, and report relevant situations to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in a timely manner. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will organize the launch of assessments of the 5G construction and development situation in all localities, and publish the relevant progress situation at an appropriate time.

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

24 March 2020