Image: wccftech.com.

China officially kicked off commercialization of 5G services on Thursday, with the nation’s big three telecom operators rolling out their 5G data plans, China Daily reported.

The move shows consumers can finally pay to access the super fast speed of 5G, as more than 86,000 5G base stations have already entered services in China.

It also shows that efforts by the US to stymie this achievement have left America holding the bag, so to speak, on a revolutionary technological breakthrough that some are comparing to the innovations of steam engines and electricity.

Chen Zhaoxiong, vice-minister of industry and information technology, the nation’s industry regulator, said China has been working hard to extend 5G network coverage. By the end of this year, more than 130,000 5G base stations will enter into service to support the network, marking one of the world’s largest 5G deployments.

The big three telecom operators, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, for the first time chose to price tariffs by internet speed rather than data allowance, the report said.

For instance, China Unicom prices the data plan which allows peak speed of 500Mbps at 199 yuan. For those who want to enjoy peak speed of 1Gbps, they have to pay at least 299 yuan.

Lyu Tingjie, a telecom professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said although the thresholds of 5G data plans are far higher than that of 4G services, the price per gigabyte of 5G is lower.

About 497,000 5G smartphones have already been shipped to the Chinese mainland in the past three months, data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology shows.

The three telecom operators have already pushed 5G preregistration with plentiful discounts and free 5G data allowance and managed to attract interest from more than 10 million subscribers after the National Day holiday.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the 5G technological milestone in China sends a stark message to the US that they will not allow the country’s industrial development — especially that of tech titan Huawei — to be stymied.

“They’ve made this a national priority. It’s part of the [Communist] Party‘s ability to show that it’s delivering the goods,” said Paul Triolo, head of geotechnology at the Eurasia Group consultancy.

“And in the middle of the trade dispute and the actions against Huawei, it’s even more important for China to show that they are continuing to move forward despite all these challenges.”

To describe the difference in speeds, analysts say that 4G is like a skateboard while 5G is like a rocket ship, presenting a huge advantage for applications such as video gaming and streaming services. More than 10 million subscribers have responded to cut-rate deals and preregistered for the service, the Washington Post reported.

“This 5G technology is part of an overall, far-reaching revolution, and it will bring brand-new changes to the economic society,” China Telecom President Ke Ruiwen said at the launch Thursday.

While some countries such as South Korea, Australia and parts of the United States have started 5G pilots, the Chinese government has embarked on a centrally planned push to roll out the technology on a commercial basis and give it an unassailable lead in the global race to install 5G wireless networks, the Washington Post reported.

“The commercialization of 5G technology is a great measure of [President] Xi Jinping’s strategic aim of turning China into a cyber power, as well as an important milestone in China’s information communication industry development,” said Wang Xiaochu, president of China Unicom.

Xi has described the world as on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution, one characterized by advances in information technology and artificial intelligence, analysts at Trivium China, a consultancy, wrote in a research note this week. “Xi wants to make sure that China is at the forefront of this new revolution — getting 5G up and running is a way to get a leg up in that race,” they said.

According to an editorial opinion published by The Global Times, while China has been keen on developing 5G, the US has been busy guarding against China. This “increasingly distorted and unhealthy mentality … has failed to impede China’s 5G development.”

In other words, “the US, obsessed with the hysteria of containing China” has missed its chance to take the lead in the 5G race. Furthermore, this will lead to nothing but a larger gap between China and the US, the editorial claimed.

Interestingly, just one day earlier, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed two 5G-related bills, which was interpreted as a feeble attempt to cope with China’s growing influence on 5G networks.

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