China Rolls Out 5G Services in Major Cities in Race to Narrow Tech Gap With the US

China’s three major state telecom operators introduced 5G wireless technology on Thursday, as the country races to narrow its technology gap with the US amid a trade war.

The country’s largest carrier, China Mobile, announced that its 5G services are available in 50 cities – including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen – with packages starting at 128 yuan ($ 18) a month.

Rivals China Telecom and China Unicom are also offering services at comparable prices in major cities, according to the notices on their websites.

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Ultra-fast mobile Internet service – which is 100 times faster than existing 4G networks – allows consumers to download full-length movies within seconds, or use virtual reality applications.

The technology will pave the way for further automation in driverless cars, factories, and allow users to remote control devices such as coffee makers and ovens via the Internet.

According to China Telecom estimates, China is expected to be the front-runner in adopting 5G services with 170 million 5G subscribers by next year.

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South Korea would rank second with South Korea’s predicted 75,000 users, with the US with 10,000, Sanford c. Bernstein analysts said in a research note last week.

“China will promote deeper integration of new generation information technology and the real economy,” said Chen Zhaoxiong, vice president of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology at a technology conference on Thursday.

“This includes accelerating the integration and application of 5G in industries, transport, energy, agriculture, education and health,” Chen said in a statement on the ministry’s website.

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Beijing is pushing for a quick rollout of technology, and China’s state economic planner said in January that developing a 5G network was one of this year’s “investment priorities”.

Despite the success of the 5G network at home, Chinese telecom equipment giants have faced regulatory push abroad.

The US Federal Communications Commission said on Monday that it is preventing telecommunications companies from purchasing equipment from Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE.

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The US is also threatening severe restrictions on Huawei, which is expected to be a leading player in offering 5G network hardware.

Washington has expressed fears that Huawei’s device may have security flaws that allow China to spy on global communications traffic, and is lobbying European countries to remain clear of it.

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