China is vastly outspending the US on 5G infrastructure, expert says

Key Points
  • China announced at the end of October the commercial rollout of 5G, a key policy priority outlined by the ruling Communist Party.
  • According to a Deloitte report, out in 2018, China has outspent the United States by approximately $24 billion in wireless communications infrastructure since 2015.
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US falling behind China on deployment of 5G, analyst says

China is ahead of the United States when it comes to investing in 5G infrastructure, an industry expert said at CNBC's East Tech West conference Monday.

5G is the next generation of mobile internet technology, designed to deliver super-fast data speeds. Its ability to transfer information with minimal delays is seen as making it possible to do things over networks that up to now have been only dreamed about — such as carrying out remote surgery or linking self-driving cars to each other.

The debate over 5G — or more specifically, the debate over the providers of 5G technology — has become politicized, with officials in the U.S. and U.K., among other countries, expressing concerns that companies like Huawei could be a security threat. In May this year, the U.S. took steps to ban Huawei from selling its technology in the United States.

"We are starting to see the separation of East and West on the roll-out of 5G. China is outspending the U.S. on 5G infrastructure by billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars," Rebecca Fannin, the founder of Silicon Dragon Ventures, told CNBC at the East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China on Monday.

China announced at the end of October the commercial rollout of 5G, a key policy priority outlined by the ruling Communist Party. China Mobile — one of the three top communication providers in China — has plans to set up more than 50,000 5G base stations in China and launch 5G commercial services in more than 50 cities by the end of the year.

Sihan Bo Chen, head of Greater China of GSMA; Dr. Justin Chuang, VP of Communications Technologies of Astri; Henry Tang, chief 5G scientist of Oppo; Rebecca Fannin, founder of Silicon Dragon Ventures, and Arjun Kharpal, technology correspondent at CNBC. The group spoke at CNBC East Tech West at LN Garden Hotel Nansha, Guangzhou on November 18, 2019. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images for CNBC International)
Zhong Zhi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

According to a Deloitte report, out in 2018, China has outspent the United States by approximately $24 billion in wireless communications infrastructure since 2015.

"Looking forward, China's five-year economic plan specifies $400 billion in 5G-related investment. Consequently, China and other countries may be creating a 5G tsunami, making it near impossible to catch up," the consulting firm said in the report.

Speaking at a panel at East Tech West, Fannin added that "China is very ambitious to lead in many technology sectors. 5G is one. A.I. (artificial intelligence) is another."

"China is leapfrogging many of the traditional tech sectors and it got into mobile, and mobile Internet and smart phones more rapidly," she said. "It has a young, digital-savvy population that takes the new ideas very quickly. It will all escalate 5G's development in China."

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