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The Chinese government granted 5G licenses for commercial use to four state-own telecommunication companies on Thursday. The move came earlier than the market had anticipated.

The first batch of companies that obtained the 5G licenses included three Hong Kong-listed carriers – China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom – plus China Broadcasting Network, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The market originally anticipated that the government would grant the 5G licenses near the end of this year, or in October at the earliest.

The announcement comes a day after Huawei, the technology giant which was blacklisted recently by the US government, signed a deal with Russian telecoms company MTS to develop a 5G network in that country over the next year.

Miao Wei, the Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said at the license presentation ceremony that 5G technology would bring new opportunities and buoy growth of China’s digital economy. He said it would speed up the digital transformation of many industries and would be used more intensively in sectors such as the Industrial Internet and the Internet of Vehicles.

The Industry and IT Ministry said China welcomes foreign enterprises participating in the building, application and promotion of its 5G network.

In an earlier statement on Tuesday, it said foreign enterprises such as Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Intel have been deeply involved in experimenting with the technology, and China’s 5G system was ready for commercial use, thanks to the joint effort of various parties.

“The message the MIIT sent is aimed at drawing attention to China’s 5G market from foreign enterprises,” said Zhao Yu, a senior analyst in the telecommunications industry was quoted as saying by the National Business Daily.

According to a research report by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, 5G technology is expected to generate 10.6 trillion yuan (about US$1.54 trillion) worth of economic output and over 3 million jobs between 2020 and 2025.

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