China Unicom, China’s third-largest wireless network operator, expects to complete technical research and launch early applications for 6G technology by 2025, boosting hopes of rolling out the next-generation mobile technology by the dawn of the next decade. The timeline was revealed by China Unicom chairman and chief executive Liu Liehong, 55, on the sidelines of the China Development Forum (CDF), a two-day conference that opened on Saturday and regarded as Beijing’s answer to the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland.
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 in 2030, according to a report by local media National Business Daily.
At the same event, 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 6G efforts declared by China Unicom’s Liu and the head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) reflect the country’s confidence in pursuing major technological advances, despite intensifying trade and tech conflicts with the United States.
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 and ZTE being handicapped by various US sanctions, including access to advanced semiconductors used in smartphones and networking gear.
Despite 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 GSM Association.
The World Radiocommunication Conference in November 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. The International Telecommunications Union, a specialised agency of the United Nations, is also expected to finalise this summer the draft recommendation for global mobile communications in 2030 and beyond, the GSMA report said.
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