The first round of standards for 5G sees China taking a more decisive role that could put Chinese manufacturers at the forefront of equipment production for the new technology–at the expense of others around the world. A foreshortened timetable for 5G rollout also emerged at an international meeting.

Radio Access Network (RAN) just held its Meeting 78 in Lisbon where networking companies, mobile carriers and equipment manufacturers from around the world gather to negotiate the future of the technology. At the meeting, the standards body 3GPP approved specifications for the next generation of mobile signal: non-standalone (NSA) 5G New Radio (NR) which for simplicity’s sake we will refer to as “5G” despite ongoing discussion on who is in charge of this standard.

This approval happened six months earlier than had been expected, accelerating the rollout of large-scale trials and commercial networks. Full approval of 5G standards is expected in September 2018.

China was well represented at the meeting with its three major telecom companies plus network equipment manufacturers Huawei and ZTE. In a joint media release, Yang Chaobin, president of Huawei’s 5G product line, said Phase 1 of the 3GPP 5G NR standardization was completed “with great progress” and that “Huawei will keep working with global partners to bring 5G into the period of large-scale global commercial deployment from 2018,” according to ZDNet.

China Telecom EVP Liu Guiqing said the carrier hopes to launch field trials in many major Chinese cities in 2018 and China Mobile EVP Li Zhengmao said the network is looking at 2020.

Chinese tech groups including Huawei and ZTE are known to be putting huge sums into 5G research. They could secure up to 20 percent of all essential patents for 5G technology, according to Edison Lee, analyst at investment bank Jefferies.

There has been a new “generation” of mobile network roughly every 9 years from the early 1980s. 4G The time needed is in part due to developing technology, but also forging standards and negotiating international and global specifications. These allow hardware to be used in multiple regions or worldwide. Previous generations saw China on the backfoot, limiting its abilities to benefit from selling equipment.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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