China has overtaken Europe by building hundreds of thousands of masts to carry superfast 4G mobile signals and western executives are warning that the country will pull further ahead with plans to more than double construction this year.
While the take-up of 4G services in China lags behind the rollout of base stations – given services only became commercially available last month – the scale of the infrastructure building underlines the country’s ambitions for the future.
China Mobile became the country’s first 4G operator in December last year and it built about 200,000 base stations before the launch. This is already more than are deployed across all of Europe, according to analysts at HSBC and CCS Insight. China Mobile’s network covers as many as 500m people across the major cities on the country’s east coast.
中国移动(China Mobile)去年12月成为中国首家4G运营商。在推出4G服务前,中国移动建了约20万座基站。汇丰(HSBC)和CCS Insight的分析师表示,这个数量已超过全欧洲现有的基站数量。中国移动的网络覆盖了中国东部沿海主要城市,覆盖人口多达5亿人。
China Telecom and China Unicom are also building smaller 4G networks. Up to 1m 4G masts could be built in China by the end of 2014, according to equipment makers.
中国电信(China Telecom)和中国联通(China Unicom)也在建设规模较小的4G网络。电信设备制造商们表示,到2014年底,中国可能建成多达100万座4G基站。
At last month’s annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, executives from European mobile operators expressed worries that the combination of regulatory constraints and sluggish economic growth would curtail construction of 4G networks in the continent.
在上月的年度巴塞罗那世界移动通信大会(Mobile World Congress)上,欧洲移动运营商的高管们称,他们担心监管限制和经济增长疲软会抑制欧洲4G网络的建设。
Also in Barcelona, Wei Zaisheng, finance director for ZTE, the Chinese state-owned equipment maker, said that there could be as many as 1m 4G base stations in China by the end of the year, from close to 300,000 today, as groups “speeded up construction”. China represented about 60 per cent of the market for new 4G masts, he said. “China is leading 4G compared to Europe.”
Three industry executives said they were expecting a second tender from China Mobile for about 500,000 base stations this year. Equipment-maker executives predicted that China Telecom would order up to 250,000 masts this year.
Neelie Kroes, Europe’s digital commissioner, has also emphasised the need to accelerate 4G rollout, and has recently shifted the focus to developing the next stage of mobile networks with so-called “5G” technology.
Only a third of Chinese households have broadband connections, say brokerage CLSA data.