China has more than 5K 5G private networks
With 5,300 private networks, China's industrial 5G has achieved serious scale.
(Source: Sipa US/Alamy Stock Photo)
China's full-blooded advance into 5G enterprise networking is getting some serious scale.
The three state-owned operators have built 5,325 5G private networks with a total of more than 20,000 use cases across 40 economic sectors, a Ministry of Industry and IT official disclosed in May.
That is way beyond the rest of the world combined. As with many China 5G stats, we have only sketchy details of the business reality behind the lofty numbers.
But the telcos certainly look to be getting plenty of traction. They don't disclose specific numbers on their enterprise 5G sales, but in their Q1 filings all three reported healthy increases in enterprise services that also include cloud and data center.
China Mobile and China Unicom enjoyed a spike of 51% and 35% respectively, while China Telecom, which has the biggest enterprise business of all, grew a more modest 13.4%.
We can observe a rise in expenses as well. China Telecom network opex rose by 13.6%, slightly more than the rise in revenue.
But so far we have just a partial answer to the industry's burning question: how to profit from building custom 5G networks across multiple verticals?
It may be that only the Chinese operators do that on the required scale, thanks to the elevated role they play in the national economy.
Leading by example
What we do have is plenty of use cases. While many are the familiar scenarios like smart ports and remote mine operations, the Chinese operators continue to break new ground.
In the latest, China Telecom says it's struck a deal to supply China Southern Airlines with 5G networking to support its maintenance program. It's a big project – a secure integrated cloud and WAN covering 20 locations across the country for China's largest airline.
China Telecom says it has now built more than 2,500 5G custom network projects.
Rival China Mobile claims to have built out 1,000 demonstration projects that can be replicated as well as 2,300 5G private network projects.
It's targeting 18 key industries including power grids, mining, ports, and manufacturing, with the aim of forming upstream and downstream partnerships to reduce barriers,
China Unicom reports 1,500 5G industrial 5G network projects and more than 400 5G application scenarios.
Zhao Ce, deputy director of the MIIT's information and communication development department, has called on the operators to increase multi-party collaboration and build out a vibrant application ecosystem.