China signs up 400 million new 5G subscribers in a year, more than doubling user population

730 million 5G services active in Middle Kingdom, while another 100 million 4G services came online too


730 million 5G subscriptions have been ordered in China, according to operational statistics published this week by the nation's big three carriers: China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile.

That total means 396.5 million new 5G packages were activated during 2021, more than doubling the 333.5 million services in operation as of January last year. The actual market could be even larger, as the three report subscriptions which could cover multiple devices or people.

Demand for other communications services continued to grow in China across 2021.

Even as they migrated millions of customers from 4G to 5G, the three carriers added another 100 million 4G subscribers. Not everyone wants the leading edge, it seems.

Wired broadband services rose by around 50 million, to a collective 505 million services across the big three.

China's statistical yearbook reports that the nation had 494 million households and 250 million "corporate enterprises" in 2020. Plenty are clearly making do without wired connections.

The surge is no surprise, as China has made 5G adoption an important element of its ongoing digitalization drive. The sheer scale is still stunning because no nation other than India and China even has a population of over 396.5 million – never mind a 5G market for 700 million services.

Readers may, at this point, recall the many predictions that 5G will be most widely used for machine-to-machine communications, making carrier data about subscriptions a less useful indicator. Such networks are, at present, hard to find. China will therefore likely own the world's biggest identifiable 5G user base for some time, as 5G rollouts in other nations with large populations – such as India and Indonesia – have scarcely commenced.

China's also showing no signs that it's worried about 5G's impact on aviation – a topic that has recently exercised regulators who fear radios using the standard could cause problems for passenger planes around airports. Ind fact, China's local telecom titan ZTE last year floated the idea of in-flight 5G for passengers. ®


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