China is on the cusp of recasting itself as a leading technology innovator from a mere follower in the telecommunications industry, as efforts to develop a global 5G mobile standard near the final stage.
"While China has the world's largest mobile market by subscriber and network size, other countries have dominated mobile technology innovation," said Jefferies equity analyst Edison Lee. "5G is the opportunity of the century for China."
The international authorities overseeing the creation of a unified standard for 5G mobile technologies are expected to release its initial phase next year and the final phase in 2019, paving the way for a broad roll-out of 5G services by mobile network operators from 2020.
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China's bid to gain a greater share of the intellectual property behind the universal 5G standard would not only increase its global influence, but improve its bargaining power with foreign patent holders and help lower costs for mainland telecoms equipment makers, chip companies and other enterprises in the supply chain, according to Lee.
As the latest advance in mobile communications, 5G denotes a new era in which networks will adapt to applications, and performance will be tailored precisely to the needs of the user, according to trade body, the GSM Association.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN agency shepherding the development of the so-called IMT 2020 standard for 5G technologies, has said the upcoming universal specification will support: a million connected devices per square kilometre; 1 millisecond latency, or the amount of time a packet of data takes to get from one point to another; higher energy and spectral efficiency; and a peak data download rate of up to 20 gigabits per second.
That agency works in tandem with the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), an international collaboration of seven telecoms standard development organisations which draw up complete mobile system specifications.