5G regulation and law in China

Information current as of 29 November 2019

What is the state of 5G deployment in China?

China issued the first batch of formal 5G licenses for commercial use on 6 June 2019. The specific telecom service category covered by the licences is “A12-4-The Fifth Generation of Digital Cellular Mobile Communication Services”, which refer to the voice, data, multi-media and other services provided through the fifth generation of digital cellular mobile communication networks.

China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Broadcasting Network are the first batch of companies that obtained the 5G licenses. It is estimated that around 130,000 5G base stations will be established by the end of 2019. 

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom all launched their 5G services at the beginning of November 2019, together covering a total of 55 Chinese cities. It is estimated that the 5G services provided by these three operators will gradually become available in more than 340 cities during the following years. 

China Broadcasting Network has also announced its plan to launch 5G services for commercial use in 2020. Compared with the other three operators, China Broadcasting Network’s services will focus more on the integration of its traditional media business and the new mobile communication technologies. 

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licences?

No. Based on our previous understanding of the launch of 3G and 4G services in China and according to the predictions of industry experts, spectrum licences are unlikely to be allocated by way of public tender but will instead be granted directly by the relevant authorities. We consider it unlikely for there to be any public tenders for spectrum licences in the future.

Has there been any comment on when there might be?

As mentioned above, we consider it unlikely for there to be any public tenders for spectrum licences in the future.

What has the government said regarding spectrum licences for commercial use?

Currently, all 5G spectrum licence activities are governed and regulated by the State Radio Regulation of China, which is an institution under the direct authority of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the PRC (MIIT).

In November 2017, the MIIT issued the Circular on Relating Matters for 5G Using 3300 mhz-3600 mhz and 4800 mhz - 5000 mhz Spectrum. It provides that the 3300 MHz ‑ 3600 MHz and 4800 MHz - 5000 MHz spectrums are permitted for use by 5G systems. In principle, 3300MHz - 3400MHz should be limited to indoor use only. In December 2018, the MIIT granted spectrum licenses for 5G trials to China Mobile (2515 MHz - 2675 MHz - 4800 MHz ‑ 4900 MHz), China Unicom (3500 MHz ‑ 3600 MHz) and China Telecom (3400 MHz - 3500 MHz).

Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?

In December 2018, MIIT issued the Conflict Coordinating Measures for 5G Mobile Communication Base Stations and Radio Stations Such as Satellite Stations in the 3000 - 5000mhz Spectrum, which aims to co-ordinate the activities for 5G stations and other radio stations in the same or adjacent spectrum. The Measures came into effect on 1 January 2019.

In November 2019, MIIIT issued the Plan for Promoting “5G Plus Industrial Internet” 512 Program, which aims to rely on the 5G technologies to build 5 industrial public service platforms, cover 10 critical sectors, and establish at least 20 typical industrial application contexts.

Many big Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou have also formulated local strategies and roadmaps to promote the development and application of 5G technologies. 

What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?

As mentioned above, spectrum licenses are unlikely to be allocated by way of public tender, but are instead likely to be distributed by the relevant authorities, meaning that it is unlikely for other competitors to be granted access to the area. Therefore, there are currently no rules for granting competitors access to new 5G networks and we predict that there will not be any rules in the future that will enable competitors to gain access.

Picture of Nick Beckett
Nick Beckett
Managing Partner