Key Takeaways of China’s 5G Development from MWC Asia 2019

With China issuing 5G licenses to telecom and broadcast companies just days before MWC Asia 2019, it was no surprise that the big theme at Shanghai was the next generation of cellular connectivity. The event saw demonstrations of the latest 5G-enabled technologies and applications from the likes of smart device OEMs, telecom operators, infrastructure and components providers.

For China, 5G is an essential element for national development. Over the years, China has recognized the importance of 5G to drive scientific and technological innovation, to upgrade industries, to stimulate investments, and to transform society and economy for the better. Below are the key takeaways from MWC Asia 2019 to give a better idea of how close we are to the official commercialization of 5G in China.


5G Network Deployment Status

  • Unlike the US, where operators focused on building a 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) network in the early deployment stage, Chinese operators have pursued a hybrid network strategy with NSA and Standalone (SA) coexisting. We expect that it will take at least five years for Chinese operators to have a nationwide coverage of 5G core (5GC), and new radio (5GC+NR) based network. Exhibit 1 below shows the current coverage of the 5G test network in China. Only selected Tier I cities in China will have complete 5G network coverage by the end of 2019.

Exhibit 1: 2019 5G network deployment in China by operators

Source: Public information, Counterpoint collects

  • Operators will accelerate the construction of 5G NR and gradually migrate to separate solutions using a central unit (CU), distribution unit (DU) or active antenna unit (AAU) architecture to optimize video and gaming services further. Operators will also deploy multi-access edge computing (MEC) platforms to provide local computing, storage, and other services, to help to save the backhaul bandwidth.
  • In terms of network equipment, both Huawei and ZTE have won the largest share of network equipment contracts from China Mobile and China Telecom. Besides Huawei and ZTE, Ericsson has won 12% of China Mobile’s network equipment contracts, while Nokia has won around 6%. Ericsson has also won a big contract from China Unicom valued RMB 20 billion (roughly US$2.9 billion).
  • For 5G baseband and solutions, Qualcomm has won contracts from over 75 5G devices and modules OEMs/ODMs globally.


5G Devices Development Update

For consumers, 5G smartphones, customer-premises equipment (CPEs), and AR/VR glasses were the major devices showcased at MWC. China Mobile announced support for multi-modes, multi-devices, multi-choices for users, and to develop a “New Industrial Ecosystem”, will be the guideline for the company to develop its 5G device business. Key points of the operator’s 5G device strategy are as follows:

  • Multi-modes: China Mobile requires smartphone models, that apply to access to its 5G network, to support both SA and NSA network standards from January 1, 2020. In 2019, prioritized access to its 5G network will also be offered to models supporting both SA and NSA.
  • Multi-devices: Apart from smartphones, China Mobile is betting on the growth potential of 5G CPE and Always-Connected-PC (ACPC) from 2019-2020. Further, from 2020-2022, China Mobile will extend its 5G product portfolio to cover a wider range of accessories such as AR glasses, VR helmet, digital media streamers, and more.
  • Multi-choices for users: China Mobile will work with industrial partners to bring down prices of 5G smartphones to satisfy the budgets of users in different tiers of the market. We expect the prices of 5G smartphones in 2019 to be above RMB 5,000 (roughly US$720) in China. From mid-2020, China Mobile targets to bring down prices to RMB 3,000 (roughly US$430), and further to RMB 1,000 – 2,000 (roughly US$145-US$290) by the end of 2020.

Exhibit 2: Prices of 5G smartphones in China under operator’s target

Source: China Mobile Device Strategy 2019

  • New Industrial Ecosystem: In the B2B market, China Mobile is positive on the growth potential of 5G applications in four core industries namely IoV (Internet of Vehicle), Electricity and Energy, Industrial IoT, and New Media Streaming. Key hardware that will empower the digital transformation of these industries, according to China Mobile, will be 5G connectivity hardware (for example CPEs, 5G modules), platform hardware (for example system integration, software development, 5G AI boxes), and industry-customized hardware (for example industrial robots). To accelerate industrial applications in China, the company will build an industrial products library, and try to develop generic solutions for different industries.

With 5G smartphones launching in Q3 2019, China Mobile’s new policy, which requires smartphone models to support both 5G SA and NSA standards since 2020, could hurt sales of smartphones powered by platforms supporting 5G NSA only. Huawei and its dual-brand HONOR could be the beneficiary of this policy.  For marketing and consumer education, we’ve seen Huawei trying to convince the public about the benefits of smartphones supporting 5G SA network, with slogans such as “SA network is the only real 5G network”. OPPO and Vivo emphasize on cloud gaming experiences of 5G phones. They promoted technologies that can optimize users’ gaming and video streaming experiences during MWC. Such features include a 120W fast charging technology from Vivo and under-screen camera solution from OPPO.


5G Applications and Use-Cases

During MWC Asia 2019, we saw Chinese telecom operators and solutions providers showcase innovative solutions for industrial application scenarios, such as smart city, smart manufacturing, smart logistics, smart traffic, and more, powered by 5G. Below are the key examples and developments:

Smart City

Exhibit 3: China Unicom’s Smart City platform

  • Comprehensive governance – Using 5G HD CCTV live streaming to monitor real-time activity.
  • Emergency management – Use of vehicles equipped with 5G base stations and HD cameras enables real-time situation monitoring.
  • Environmental protection – Employing 5G drones to collect information and monitor protected forests, etc.
  • Energy management-Collecting data from massive sensors in electricity/water/gas meters in the city to monitor and optimize energy consumption.
  • Smart transportation – Enabled by deploying semi-autonomous vehicles and using C-V2X for passenger/ride safety.
  • Smart policing – Using low latency 5G services to monitor and respond to public requirements.

Smart Manufacturing

Exhibit 4: China Mobile Smart Manufacturing solution for vehicles

  • Smart connectivity – Using URLLC 5G service to replace wired connectivity in factories and connecting the non-connected machines to achieve higher efficiency.
  • Smart Assembly Process—3D camera and image recognition technologies applied to pick and send the right components to production lines under different vehicle brands and models. In quality control process, 3D camera and image recognition are also applied to tell if the components are qualified and then send the qualified components to assembly lines. Finally, robot arms and image recognition technology can automatically assemble the vehicle. The entire procedure will require a network with significant bandwidth throughput capability to continuously upload high-definition images to the cloud, as well as ultra-low latency of the network to feedback image recognition results in real time.


  • Smart Healthcare – Remote surgery and health monitoring of patients via 5G network and robot arms.
  • Smart Education – Use of 5G HD video to monitor students for attentiveness and send instant reports to parents.
  • Smart Entertainment – The low latency of 5G technology can provide reliable AR/VR experience.
  • Smart Logistics – Deploying drones and autonomous vehicles to transport goods efficiently. Use of these services can also be for analyzing the health of asset and predictive maintenance.

We expect China to officially launch 5G commercial services in Q3 2019, together with the release of 5G smartphones by key OEMs, including Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Xiaomi, ZTE, and OnePlus. However, only selected tier-I cities can have access to the 5G network in 2019. Therefore, sales of 5G smartphones in 2019 will be limited, and it will take years for China to achieve nationwide 5G coverage. 5G will bring a more transformative impact on industrial and public sectors. Although, the complexities of 5G industrial applications mean that only highly integrated, customized, secure, and cost-for-value 5G solutions will entice industrial clients. Thus, we expect it will also take years for 5G-powered industrial solutions to mature and scale in China.

For the detailed report of MWC Asia 2019, and the latest update on 5G ecosystem in China and around the globe, please contact

  • Contact of co-author analysts:



5G Applications showcased at PyeongChang Winter Olympics

The PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games 2018 were both a spectacular sports event and a live stage for cutting-edge IT technologies. This was an opportunity to highlight the commercial capability and application for 5G technology.

Samsung, Intel and Korea Telecom collaborate to bring 5G service experience to the public

5G services are still at the early stage of development, however, at the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, Samsung, Intel and Korea Telecom (KT) collaborated to realize the world’s first 5G mass service operation, where visitors could experience 5G services directly.

The partners provided a 4K streaming video service via a 5G network to highlight the massive high-volume and high-speed data transmission potential of 5G. KT provided the 5G data network through a collaboration led by Intel with partners including Ericsson, Nokia and Alibaba, while Samsung unveiled its 5G mobile tablet device to deliver a 4K streaming video via Intel’s base stations.

This is Samsung’s first 5G mobile device. The device worked well for the 4K video streaming service and, at the same time, offered other smart device standard functions. And it was designed to support seamless interworking between 4G and 5G services to expand its service environment even under 4G. The 4K streaming service played smoothly on the test. We did a play-back test on the 4K streaming video. While 4K streaming worked, there is still a long way to go for commercialization. High-frequency transmission loss and the service distance issues have not been fully resolved. In the showcase center, Intel’s base station was installed in the ceiling to provide the 5G network, based on 28GHz. However, the city diorama structure (shown in the photo above) had to be placed on the floor directly below the device to avoid any potential interference between the base station and the device. This suggested to us that the limitations of millimeter wave continue to be an issue.

Samsung’s 5G mobile device delivers a significant move towards miniaturization, although it has not yet achieved smartphone size. However, there are other significant drawbacks besides the size. The device is heavy in comparison with other, similar-sized, tablets, and the device became hot in use. The power source in the device was an 8000 mAh battery, suggesting low power technology for the 5G chip has not been developed yet. Nevertheless, it was operating with a download speed of around 3.7 Gb/s.

5G VR/MR Broadcasting Enables Immersive Media Service at Olympic Games

The service expected to grow most rapidly in the early stages of 5G adoption is VR/MR broadcasting. The PyeongChang Olympic Games demonstrated the feasibility of VR/MR broadcasting via 5G.

With the simultaneous scene capture of numerous cameras in PyeongChang and Gang-neung Olympic park, Intel could utilize its close-to-real time VR rendering technology to deliver VR video. This could potentially provide end-users with a 360 degrees interactive view of sports events in near-real-time. At the PyeongChang Olympics, the VR video service was not displayed to the public, but it was used for record judging and for replay on the display board inside the stadium. Although the service was only available at short-track games due to technical and budget limitations, it is easy to see how its application could be expanded in the future. This could bring to life the concept “as good as being there” as a future revenue model for 5G technology application.

Sync-view, Bobsleigh and 360° Camera

The bobsleigh event provided the opportunity for another enhanced broadcasting method enabled by 5G. The camera installed in the bobsleigh provided a real-time view of the athlete’s angle of vision. In addition, the 360° camera installed at the race track captured the entire race successfully without missing any moment. 5G made it possible to transmit this massive data in a real time, providing an even more satisfying viewing experience for TV viewers than for the live audience at the scene.

UIYAJI, Wind Village – 5G Applications for Rural Services

UIYAJI, a mountain village above PyeongChang was the site of a 5G installation built by KT, Intel, Samsung and Nokia to test the viability of 5G for rural applications. UIYAJI Village was transformed from the countryside where no prior internet connection was installed. 5G brought connectivity to the village for the first time.

The 5G network was installed in a fixed wireless mode by using the café and the educational center in the village as two major access centers. In the café, users can enjoy 5G related services, such as a tourist information service based on AR, a media wall where the gesture recognition is applied as a user interface, supporting previously filmed village image through a drone.

In UIYAJI, 5G technology is also used for a pest control system. The system can detect animals using dispersed embedded sensors and then activate a defense system that uses sound, voice, or scent to repel unwelcome animals. In UIYAJI, radar and CCTV devices are used to detect pests such as wild pigs and take appropriate actions to reduce or prevent crop destruction.

Augmented Reality (AR) services on 5G technology create another potential application – that of enhanced remote shopping experiences. The use of a 360-degree camera with an overlay of information can create a shopping environment for the buyer that is similar or even better than being physically present. This kind of service could be adjusted to suit auction type transactions with multiple buyers. Possibilities for remote auction capabilities include agricultural livestock, fish auctions, and house sales. The benefits of remote auctions include more participants and more easily verifiable information than being physically present.

Beyond PyeongChang, what next for 5G?

Korea Telecom is working with partner companies to achieve early commercialization of 5G in 2019. Through the PyeongChang / UIYAJI Village projects, KT has gained the experience to build and stabilize a 5G communication network and broadcasting network.

One of the most important challenges for KT has been to change people’s perception of the need for 5G services. Before the installation in UIYAJI, villagers were dismissive of the new technology. However, when the residents started to use the 5G services they began to realize the potential benefits to their way of life. The participation of residents has also helped the partners develop the service offering beyond the original plans.

We expect 5G to start to be commercialized by early 2020 – likely among the first adopting countries. However, we expect it will take until around 2022 before 5G-based lifestyle-changing services become available in Korea and more broadly.

Please feel free to contact us via the contact form by clicking here for further questions regarding our in-depth latest research.

Term of Use and Privacy Policy

Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited


In order to access Counterpoint Technology Market Research Limited (Company or We hereafter) Web sites, you may be asked to complete a registration form. You are required to provide contact information which is used to enhance the user experience and determine whether you are a paid subscriber or not.
Personal Information When you register on we ask you for personal information. We use this information to provide you with the best advice and highest-quality service as well as with offers that we think are relevant to you. We may also contact you regarding a Web site problem or other customer service-related issues. We do not sell, share or rent personal information about you collected on Company Web sites.

How to unsubscribe and Termination

You may request to terminate your account or unsubscribe to any email subscriptions or mailing lists at any time. In accessing and using this Website, User agrees to comply with all applicable laws and agrees not to take any action that would compromise the security or viability of this Website. The Company may terminate User’s access to this Website at any time for any reason. The terms hereunder regarding Accuracy of Information and Third Party Rights shall survive termination.

Website Content and Copyright

This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.