On the morning of June 6, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued 5G commercial licenses to China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Radio and Television, which means that China has officially entered the 5G commercial year.
According to the previous plan of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Chinas 5G application schedule is a pilot project in 2018, pre-commercial in 2019 and official commercial in 2020. Compared with the original plan, 5G commercial time is much earlier.
In response, Wu He Quan, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said in an interview with China Newsweek that the 5G speed-up is the result of technology-driven, market demand and industrial maturity, but there are still many bottlenecks.
Speed-up is the result of technology-driven and market demand and industrial maturity
China News Weekly: From January 2016, the 5G technology test was officially carried out and the first licenses were issued today. It took only three and a half years. Compared with the era of 3G and 4G, the development speed has been greatly accelerated. Why is there such a speed?
Hu Hequan: When 3G and 4G were issued, the licenses were basically issued by developed countries such as Europe and the United States for several years before we began to issue licenses. By 5G, we have basically entered the worlds first echelon. At present, only a few countries, such as Korea and the United States, have issued 5G licenses, and our future 5G scale will be much larger than those of these countries.
So, although we can not be said to be the first country to use 5G commercially, compared with the time of 3G and 4G, we have achieved synchronization with developed countries, and it is one of the first countries to use 5G. Among them, we have laid a comprehensive technological foundation at the time of 3G and 4G, and we also have the desire of China to promote economic and industrial development through 5G.
With the technological foundation and adequate industrial preparation, we now have the conditions to start commercial use.
China News Weekly: At present, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has carried out three stages of 5G technology research and development experiment. The experiment results are good. Does it mean that it has 5G commercial technology foundation?
Wu Hequan: As far as the maturity of base stations is concerned, enterprises like Huawei have shipped more than 100,000 5G base stations. Compared with 4G, 5G base stations are not only improved in performance, but also in volume and power consumption. Base stations are quite mature.
In terms of terminals, developed countries have begun to commercialize, but the experience of networks and terminals is not ideal. According to reports, our terminals will be better than those already commercialized in developed countries. But compared with 4G, 5G terminals still have some problems. First, there are not enough types of terminals to provide users with more choices. Secondly, terminal prices are still relatively expensive, and may have to wait until a certain scale to significantly reduce prices. Third, the stability of terminals may need to be tested. But we cant stagnate, we cant mature without commercial use, and we need to continue our efforts.
In addition, it will take some time to build the network, because the network needs to achieve coverage, otherwise the user experience will not be good. There are not only investment problems, but also construction problems, as well as base station location problems, which need a process. Therefore, at first commercial use can only be in some larger cities, more hot areas, and gradually expand coverage.
Moreover, the frequency of 5G is higher than the actual frequency. On the high frequency, the transmission conditions will be disturbed, so it needs to be tested in commercial applications. At present, some pre-commercial experiments and tests have been carried out, but only when they are put into commercial use in an all-round way is the real test, so they need to be perfected in the commercial process.
More importantly, 5G is still driven by application and market. Without creating value for users, users will not buy 5G services and terminals. Therefore, more business and application development should be promoted continuously in the business process. More applications in the future are definitely oriented to industry, and vertical industry cooperation is indispensable for industry.
It will take quite a long time for 5G to reach commercial scale.
China Newsweek: After more than six years of development in China, the three major telecom operators have invested tremendously in infrastructure construction and operation, and have not yet recovered their costs. Now we have to start the construction of 5G. How will the cost problem be solved?
Wu Hequan: The construction of 4G took six or seven years, which is about 70 billion to 800 billion yuan of construction investment, equivalent to more than 100 billion yuan annually invested by operators, which is similar to the previous annual investment scale of operators.
The construction cycle of 5G may be longer than that of 4G. If the annual investment intensity is similar to that of the past, it will be almost completed after 8 to 10 years with more than 100 million yuan invested. Of course, the investment of operators is still expected to be rewarded through business operations, and new businesses and applications need to be explored constantly.
There are many reasons for the insufficient return of investment in 4G, but you should see that in the past few years of investment in 4G, the unit traffic fee of mobile Internet is one-tenth of that of previous years, that is to say, if operators do not reduce prices, they should be profitable long ago. Operators also have to play their social responsibility and make some contributions to the informatization of the whole country. So it seems that the construction of 4G does not create a lot of returns, but in fact, this return is not only limited to the income of operators, but also reflected in the development of informatization in the whole society. Therefore, 5G is also reflected in social benefits to a large extent, more in the social informatization, as well as industrial digitization and so on.
China News Weekly: For consumers to experience 5G service, they need to change their mobile phones. However, the price of 5G mobile phones for testing and pre-commercial use is too high, which makes consumers hesitate. Will it block 5G commercial use?
Wu Hequan: Generally speaking, when the scale of new generation products is small and the number of users is small, the cost of R&D investment must be allocated to sales. Naturally, the initial price is relatively high. In fact, 2G, 3G and 4G begin to have similar situation. With more users, the cost will naturally decrease.
There was no license issued for a period of time ago. All the companies just made a sample, not in scale. If we estimate the price of the mobile terminal from the sample, it is really far from the level of psychological acceptance. Now the official issuance of commercial licences is equivalent to giving mobile phone manufacturers a comprehensive signal, as long as the mass production, terminal costs can be reduced. As time goes on, there will be a variety of terminals to choose from. There will be terminals with different prices and different grades on the market. There will be terminals with prices comparable to those of 4G.
There may be a group of users who feel affordable and in need will try first. As the price of the terminal decreases, the coverage of the network will be wider and the users will grow gradually. This is a rule. If there are a large number of users at the beginning, the network can not keep up with, and can not do a good job.
China News Weekly: The Internet of Things may be the most important application scenario of 5G, especially the vehicle networking technology. Whats the current layout?
Wu Hequan: In the future, auxiliary driving and unmanned driving will be a good scene for 5G commercial use. At present, automatic driving is still a little farther away, because after all, 5G is only a good means to help automatic driving. Auto-driving also needs a variety of sensors, including radar, and other infrastructure upgrades, as well as management. The perfection of rules and regulations, therefore, is relatively distant.
At present, auxiliary driving can be done, and 5G is definitely a good application. Previous commercial experiments, some operators cooperate with automobile enterprises, but also need to improve the entire road facilities, and reduce the cost of networked vehicles, in order to promote the development of auxiliary driving.
China News Weekly: In your opinion, what kind of process does China need to really achieve the development of 5G commercial scale?
Wu Hequan: Up to now, our countrys mobile users of 3G and 4G only account for about 85% of all mobile users. To this extent, 5G will take no shorter time than 4G. Its been six or seven years since 4G, and 5G takes at least longer than 4G.
Of course, 5G will also encounter some mobile communication problems, such as the location of base stations. Although the electromagnetic radiation index of Chinese base stations is much stricter than that of Europe and America, 10 times stricter, many Chinese people still worry about radiation, so the location of base stations is not so easy.
On the issue of frequency, we are now working in the frequency band below 6 GHz (gigahertz). Compared with millimeter-wave band, this band is relatively faster to build a network, but the maximum peak bandwidth obtained is not as good as millimeter-wave band. Therefore, in the future, China will adopt millimeter-wave band for 5G, but the frequency in millimeter-wave band has been pre-allocated to other uses, so coordination is needed. There are some departmental interests and other issues that need to be solved by the government, including the location of the base station, but also need some guidance from the government.
In addition, in many basic core technologies, we need to continue to increase the intensity of technology development and controllability.
Source: Shi Jianlei_NBJ11331, Responsible Editor of China Newsweek