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COVID-19 lockdowns and economic woes do not deter China from pursuing its economic ascension and 5G aspiration

September 2022

LightCounting releases its China Wireless Infrastructure & Macroeconomics Update 1H22

LightCounting’s latest report provides an update on the 5G radio access (RAN) developments in China, including macroeconomics, geopolitics, and technology.

Until 1Q22, China seemed to be on track to become the world’s largest economic power between 2026 and 2028. Suddenly, the outlook looks different because China’s zero-COVID-19 policy is backfiring on top of the ongoing real estate crisis.

1H22 data confirmed that 2022 started with significant headwinds that are dramatically slowing China’s economy and seriously compromising its 5.5% planned annual GDP growth. It is now clear that this growth target won’t be reached as a result of government crackdowns on various industries starting with tech, finance and tutoring companies and tighter control over property developers.

Without the solid expansive telecom infrastructure, China’s economic ascension would have never happened. As 5G is the key enabler of China’s digital economy, 5G rollouts have remained steady in 1H22 and the full year will see a larger rollout than initially planned.” said Stéphane Téral, Chief Analyst at LightCounting Market Research.

Since the telecom restructuring of 2009, 3 major service providers -- China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom -- have emerged with a combined 2G/3G/4G/5G base station (BTS) footprint of 9.96M and a combined total of 1.42M 5G base stations as of December 31, 2021, and as of July 31, 2022, China’s MIIT reported 5G BTS reached 1.97M.

Our major findings in this edition of the China Wireless Infrastructure report are:

  • China is isolated and self-reliant and divides the world into 2 spheres of influence: East vs. West, defined as geopolitical rather than geographic labels. In the East, China is the only country rising while the West is growing slowly but is much bigger in terms of GDP and boasts a gigantic wealth and R&D budget.
  • 5G, and soon 6G, remains at the center of China’s economy shift from industry to services. The government said that over 10,000 5G application cases have covered 22 industries and related fields of the national economy, including agriculture, steel, electric power, and mining.
  • China’s RAN market is poised for a high single-digit annual growth this year, driven by the deployment of additional 5G BTS that were not in the service providers’ plans earlier this year.
  • In the mid- and long-term, our 4G/5G RAN forecasting model shows lumpiness and bumpiness of the market through 2026, which we predict will be the year China kicks off 6G.

About the report:
LightCounting’s China Wireless Infrastructure and Macroeconomics report focuses on 5G radio access (RAN) developments in China, including macroeconomics, geopolitics, and technology. The publication date is scheduled a few weeks after the 4 services providers (China Broadcasting Network, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom) provide their annual reports and updated biannually, so that we can gather many details about 2021 and provide a 2022 outlook and a 5-year forecast. This report also includes RAN vendor market shares and analysis.

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