China is ratcheting up efforts to accelerate the commercialization of superfast 5G technology as it has built 198,000 5G stations and secured more than 50 million 5G mobile subscribers nationwide as of the end of March, the nation’s top industry regulator said.

Wen Ku, head of information and communication at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said that as of April 20, a total of 95 types of 5G mobile phones had been licensed, and 5G handsets priced at less than 2,000 yuan ($283.3) have already entered the market.

The ministry said it will support smartphone manufacturers to strengthen research, development and innovation in a bid to provide consumers with various types of cost-effective 5G mobile phones and bolster the consumption of 5G phones through optimizing 5G package services and lowering data plan fees.

More efforts are also needed to propel the application of 5G in a wide range of fields, which include virtual reality, augmented reality, livestreamed events, games and entertainment.

Figures from the ministry last month showed the coverage of the 5G network will be further expanded with more than 600,000 stations expected to be built nationwide by the end of 2020.

The move follows urgings for faster development and a new round of infrastructure such as 5G networks and data centers proposed at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in March.

“The unprecedented spending on new infrastructure that covers a number of key fields including transportation, energy and telecommunications will help hedge against the negative impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and inject new impetus into the economy amid mounting downside pressure,” Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association.

Xiang said 5G-powered technology is taking the lead in enhancing social efficiency, fostering high-quality development and new types of consumption as well as accelerating the upgrading of traditional industries.

Data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank, showed that the commercialization of 5G in China is expected to generate a direct economic output of 10.6 trillion yuan from 2020 to 2025, and an indirect economic output of about 24.8 trillion yuan.

Wang Zhiqin, deputy director of CAICT, said the 5G technology-as a representative of new infrastructure-has been in wide use in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, especially in the healthcare, telecommuting, online teaching and smart logistics sectors, helping enterprises resume production and operations in an orderly manner.

“The country is expected to spend 1.2 trillion yuan on 5G network construction and drive more than 3.5 trillion yuan of investment in the upstream and downstream industrial chain and other related sectors by 2025,” Wang said, adding that the country is entering a critical period of 5G network construction.

Wang said speeding up the construction of the 5G network will play a vital role in optimizing the investment structure and stabilizing the growth rate when facing fallout from the contagion and economic downward pressure this year.

China kicked off the commercialization of 5G on Oct 31, 2019, with the nation’s big three telecom operators rolling out their 5G data plans. China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom echoed their intentions of joining hands and accelerating construction of 5G network infrastructure. They also disclosed in March that they would invest a total of about 180 billion yuan on 5G this year.

A report recently released by GSMA, an international association of mobile operators, forecast that China will have nearly 45 percent of the world’s total 1.8 billion 5G subscribers by 2025, adding that the country still leads the world in 5G development despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

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