China leads private 5G networks in industrial facilities

China is building infrastructure for 5G networks, but the technology is actually widespread inside factories, coal mines, shipyards and warehouses.

The country is best at deploying powerful localized 5G networks on vast industrial sites aimed at helping automate labor-intensive or dangerous industrial processes and increasing productivity. It is widely regarded as being on the front line.

These sites include 5G coal mines with remote drilling machines, so-called smart factories that automate production and quality control, and seaports with internet-connected cameras that process and aggregate cargo containers.

Revenue from 5G private network deployment

These 5G private networks, unlike consumer networks that cover towns and cities, are dedicated to specific enterprise sites with bespoke hardware and software. Being isolated from the public network, you can tailor it to your specific requirements and do more. Complex jobs and processes.

Big plan

Many such projects are under construction in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world, but analysts say the government will build and deploy private networks next-generation networks.

“China is very ambitious about the development of 5G. Basically, we are making 5G a national priority and targeting the digital transformation and connectivity of the economy,” said Greater China, head of the telecommunications industry group GSMA. Said Sihan Bo Chen.

Last year, the companies involved in the deployment generated $ 1.2 billion in revenue from a 5G private network serving Chinese companies and governments, according to ABI Research. It accounts for about one-third of the world’s total and exceeds the revenue generated in Europe and North America. , Technical research company. This figure is a substitute for the scale of such network deployments in China, says LeoGergs, an ABI analyst studying the use of 5G networks by businesses.

At the port of Ningbo, China, a 5G network will automate freight container aggregation and power unmanned container trucks.


Alex Plavevski / EPA Shutterstock

Research firms expect China’s lead to grow in the coming years, given the aggressive government goals. This year, the revenue of private networks generated in China is expected to increase by about 60%. The ABI predicts that it will exceed $ 5 billion by 2025.

China is generally the world leader in 5G deployments. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as of the end of last year, China has more than 1.4 million 5G base stations, accounting for 60% of the world total. A government agency that oversees China’s technology sector.

Last April, Beijing set a set of goals to achieve in 5G by 2023. The plan, called “Set Sail,” targets more than 560 million individual 5G users nationwide with a 5G subscriber rate. Over 40% of the population. For major industries, the government wants 5G penetration to exceed 35% and also aims to build more than 3,000 private 5G networks by that year.

“This shows how deeply the government is involved in China’s 5G deployment,” says Gergs.

Go underground

Xinyuan coal mine control center.


Qilai Shen / Bloomberg News

Some of such projects in China are already in operation. One example: Xinyuan Coal Mine in Shanxi Province, which is rich in Chinese coal. Last year, telecommunications vendor Huawei Technologies Co. and state-owned operator ChinaMobile941 -0.39%

We have developed an underground 5G network that enables remote inspection of mines and automation of mining activities using tunneling equipment operated by remote control deep underground.

Similar technology is working at the Xiangtan Steel Factory in Xiangtan, a city in southern China. In 2019, Huawei and China Mobile built 5G coverage for the factory and are now running 5G-connected cranes and video surveillance cameras to assist in operation and surveillance, according to reports on the GSMA project. GSMA says that in the port city of Ningbo, it has built a similar 5G network to automate freight container aggregation and power unmanned container trucks.

“Private network deployments are really just getting started, and China is already a bit outlier,” says Gergs.

Strumpf is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong and can contact

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