Shenzhen’s Futian Station is buzzing – literally. The country’s biggest train station is the venue of a most fascinating exhibition at the moment: all sorts of 5G-enabled devices and services are being tested here. It’s called 5G Experience Week, and it’s focused on getting the city’s tech-crazy citizens ready for the launch of commercial 5G services next month.
Which makes it a perfect time and place for the city government to announce progress on the buildout of its 5G network. In what will likely be an escalating display of one-upmanship with Guangzhou, Shenzhen claims to be leading the country in 5G deployment, with around 2,000 base stations already built, and 8,500 expected before the end of the year. The area around the station, the heart of the Futian business district, is already fitted out, including the port area linking to Hong Kong.
It’s not only Futian where download speeds of 1.5ghz – ten times the speed of 4G – are available to the lucky few who have been able to get their hands on a new 5G model from one of the smartphone brands. The special economic zone of Qianhai has full coverage, with 111 base stations put up there by the local unit of China Unicom, one of four telcom operators licensed nationwide. The Xili area, where a huge new railway hub is being built, also has full coverage, apparently.
Other districts are not far behind. The local unit of China Telecom says it has opened more than 600 5G base stations in Nanshan, Futian, Baoan, Qianhai, Dakonggang, University City, and Huawei Science and Technology Park.
The city is just getting going, however. Over the next three years, 45,000 base stations will be built –24,000 “macro” and 21,000 “micro” – with an average distance between them of just 200 meters. From next month, operators will start selling the service to consumers, who will not need to change their numbers, just their handsets.
Gradually – by Shenzhen’s standards, that is – other devices will start to be adopted using the new 5G standard. They are on display already. At 5G Experience Week events, there are AR/VR terminals for home and personal use, car-oriented gadgets, and unmanned industrial machines such as robots and drones.
The city’s handset manufacturers are, unsurprisingly, leading the charge. ZTE’s Axon10 Pro5G version was unveiled yesterday, equipped with the Snapdragon 855 mobile platform. Huawei already has its Mate20 X available, using the Baron 5000 chip, which is the world’s first commercial SA/NSA5G dual-mode mobile phone. It goes on sale next week.