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China Mobile to build private 5G networks for faster industrial application of technology

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-31 08:58
A visitor uses a VR-enabled headset supported by China Mobile's 5G technologies to check medical information online during a high-tech exhibition in Shanghai in November. [Photo by LYU LIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

China Mobile, the nation's largest telecom operator, has officially unveiled its plans to help a variety of industries build private 5G networks-a move expected to accelerate the application of the superfast wireless technology in manufacturing, healthcare, vehicles, ports and other areas.

Zhao Dachun, deputy general manager of China Mobile, said 5G is deeply integrated with artificial intelligence, the internet of things, cloud computing, big data and other technologies, which will help thousands of industries embrace digitalization.

"Private 5G networks are a key way to implement innovative industrial applications and they can help meet thousands of industries' rigid demand for digital transformation and upgrades,"Zhao said.

Focusing on 15 industries, China Mobile has already built 100 key 5G pilot projects, more than 70 percent of which have put forward clear network-specific requirements. They demand not only large bandwidth, low latency and large-scale connectivity of 5G, but also call for efficient operations and maintenance and other diversified network capabilities.

China Mobile has come up with dozens of technical solutions to help companies from different industries upgrade their networks. As of June, China Mobile has erected more than 140,000 5G base stations and offers 5G services in more than 50 cities across China.

According to a report from Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson, as manufacturers address modernization, automation and digitalization, both private 5G networks and dedicated 5G networks offer a way to support multiple use cases, retain control of network resource allocation and ensure that critical data remains on-site.

The report said that historically, many manufacturers have built, owned and operated one or more elements of their communications infrastructure in-house. But over time this has gradually shifted to outsourcing more elements, driven by the growing complexity of the technologies. With the advent of 5G, for many industries it no longer makes sense to build, own and operate infrastructure that is not a core business.

Private 5G networks enable companies to control resources and deploy their own networks. They can also safely store important sensitive data on their own networks and not have to send the information to telecom operators.

China Mobile has already partnered with the mining industry to leverage 5G to make subterranean mines safer and more efficient. It partnered with Huawei and Shandong Gold Mining (Laixi) Co to deploy 5G networks in a mine in Qingdao, Shandong province, where an automatic electric locomotive loaded with gold ore runs smoothly as workers on the surface, about 500 meters above the vehicle, monitor operations via real-time video links.

Liu Pengnan, a technician working in the mine, said:"Superfast 5G allows radio signals to pass through thick rock, earth, ceilings and floors. We can access a peak download speed of 800 megabytes per second and an upload speed of 100 Mb/s, making it possible for us to remotely control underground equipment-a big improvement in safety for front-line workers such as me."

The mine was covered by the 5G network in late November. It offered a glimpse into how traditional sectors can embrace new technologies to upgrade themselves.

Wang Zhiqin, deputy head of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, said industrial applications are key to the success of 5G, and different models are being explored globally to respond to various industry demands for differentiated services on 5G networks.

"Telecom operators should give full play to the advantages of public 5G network spectra and accelerate network construction, promote the maturity of the 5G industry and advance the integration and innovation of industrial applications, thereby enhancing the value of the entire 5G network," Wang said.

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