5G regulation and law in China

1. What is the state of 5G deployment in your country?

China has constructed over 700,000 5G base stations, and more than 180 million 5G terminal connections. With almost 46,500 5G base stations, Shenzhen became the first city to achieve full-scale 5G deployment in August 2020. Beijing followed in September. By the end of July 2020, there were more than 88 million 5G users nationally.

China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom have each announced pilot DSS solutions in certain provinces, in cooperation with suppliers such as ZTE, Huawei and Ericsson. There is no national guidance on the implementation of DSS yet.

While 5G speeds were first offered as NSA during the transition period, the three major 5G operators have all set SA 5G as their ultimate target and are planning commercial launches soon. 

2. Are telecoms companies monetising 5G investments - or are the services provided to consumers at similar prices to 4G? 

No. At the current stage, operators are focusing on upgrading users from 4G to 5G. The three leading players are all offering entry-level packages with prices similar to 4G.  

3. Has 5G been launched for industrial purposes? For which sectors?

Yes. 5G technologies are being used in sectors such as telemedicine and healthcare, mass surveillance and public security, cloud live streaming, manufacturing, transportation and logistics.

4. What is being done to ensure that a wide range of operators and industrial companies, from small to large, have access to frequencies?

Only four operators - China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and state-owned broadcaster China Broadcasting Network - have access to spectrum licences. 5G technology service providers will bid to win technology service contracts from the four. 

5. What public tenders have awarded spectrum licences? 

There is no public tender process to allocate spectrum licences, which are instead granted directly by the relevant authorities to operators. 
In June 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) officially issued licences for commercial 5G to China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and state-owned broadcaster China Broadcasting Network.

5.1 What were the criteria for awarding each of the tenders?

N/A because the licences are not awarded based on a tender.

5.2 What are the conditions of the spectrum licence? 

N/A because the licences are not awarded based on a tender.

5.3 What is the price and how is it calculated?

N/A because the licences are not awarded based on a tender.

6. Is there a long-term spectrum plan or announcements for future tenders? 

There is not a long-term spectrum plan or announcements for future tenders. 

7. If 5G specific rules are drafted, 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 - 5000 MHz Spectrum, in order to coordinate 5G stations and other radio stations in the same or adjacent spectrum. The measures came into effect on 1 January 2019.

In November 2019, MIIT issued the Plan for Promoting 5G-Plus Industrial Internet 512 Program, which aims to build five 5G-connected industrial public service platforms, cover 10 critical sectors, and establish at least 20 typical industrial application contexts. 

In March 2020, the MIIT issued the Circular on Accelerating 5G Development. This circular launches 18 measures in five aspects, including accelerating the building and deployment of 5G networks. 

Large 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.

8. What focused 5G network or spectrum sharing regulation exists?

N/A

9. Are 5G network sharing or spectrum sharing agreements in place? 

Yes. 

China Telecom, the second largest operator, and China Unicom, the third largest operator, signed the “Framework Agreement on Co-building and Co-sharing 5G Networks” on 9 September 2019. The two operators will build and share one 5G radio access network (RAN) in major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. However, the 5G core networks will be built separately. The agreement laid out a plan to divide the work between the two in the cities where they will share the network. Territories to be covered by each one will be divided roughly on the number of 4G base stations. Each operator will be responsible for investing in, maintaining, and operating the base stations it builds. They will build separate 5G networks in other parts of the country.

10. What are or will be the rules for granting competitors access to new 5G networks once they are deployed?

As mentioned above, spectrum licences are unlikely to be allocated by way of public tender, instead being distributed by the relevant authorities. There are currently no rules for granting competitors access to new 5G networks, and we do not predict that future rules will either. 

11. What comments have been made regarding 5G cyber-security and possible use of Chinese technology, including regulation?

In August 2020, the department of Science and Technology of the MIIT issued the draft Guide to the Building of the Framework of Data Security Standards in the Telecommunications and Internet Sectors. The draft proposed a preliminary framework of data security standards in the telecommunications and internet sectors by 2021, alongside specific standards for key fields such as 5G. 

Picture of Nick Beckett
Nick Beckett
Managing Partner
Beijing