10M China 5G Users: Everything is Changed – see update

One week after the official launch, CM, CT, and CU have 10,000,000 5G users. 150,000,000 is a plausible estimate for 2020. 5G is here.

** Important update: Actually, the initial 10M were reservations, not users. The government figure is only 3M phones shipped in October. It appears the supply of phones will catch up quickly, but that’s unproven. **

People want to buy, undoubtedly true in the rest of the world as well. Huawei’s Weibo Mall is selling thousands of phones every minute. We need another month of data for certainty, but it looks likely China will reach 100M by summer 2020.

The phone price, mostly US$515 to $700, is $30-100 more than similar 4G phones. The difference in manufacturing cost is $30-45.

4G phones in China will be obsolete in a year or two. Most phones at $400 & above will be 5G. More expensive phones like Huawei’s top models are also selling rapidly. At these prices, you’d be foolish not to buy 5G phones if you purchasing a mid or high-end phone.

What did the Chinese telcos do?

They are building rapidly (80,000) radios and made clear commitments:

  • 130,000 radios in 2019. They will cover the central areas of most larger cities.
  • 600,000 to 800,000 radios in 2020, covering 600,000,000 to 700,000,000, about half the country.
  • Over 90% coverage in 2021-2022.

Upgrading is easy. Just plug your sim card into a 5G phone.

Demonstration centers have opened in major cities. Thousands of outlets are selling 5G, with the number increasing extremely rapidly. The demand is so much above expectations rollout is struggling.

The price is right

Generally, the same as 4G. $13 for 30 gigabytes, $5 for each additional gigabyte. 20-30% discounts for existing customers.

Smart build to keep the cost down

China Telecom and China Unicom are doing a joint build sharing 200 MHz. Each will have twice the coverage of prior plans, 80,000 radios by the end of 2019. They project savings of $30 billion.

More to come.

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