China says it will fast-track issuing domestic 5G licences as it plans a huge boost to the country’s use of next-generation mobile tech.

The move, announced by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), comes as the row over European security fears centering on Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s 5G technology intensifies.

Prosecutors in the US have also filed a range of charges against the company, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice and theft of technology. A number of other countries have also expressed security concerns over Huawei’s 5G technology. The result is the company faces severe challenges to its overseas ambitions as a result.

China’s ambassador to the EU warned in comments to the Financial Times earlier this week that any attempts to curb Huawei’s and other Chinese companies’ activities in forthcoming European 5G projects were “slander” and “discrimination”. He said such efforts could have “serious consequences” for global and economic and scientific co-operation.

The announcement of the effort to boost domestic 5G projects is part of a wider effort to drive consumption as China’s economic growth appears to be slowing, the South China Morning Post reported.

The state planner said it would also promote high-quality video and the launch of 4K television across the country, plus subsidise super-high-definition TV sets, as well as virtual and augmented reality in certain regions.

At the end of last year, 5G spectrum licences were granted to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, which allow them to carry out trials for a new mobile network. Wen Ku, senior information and communications officer at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told a news conference in Beijing this week that 5G networks were ready for “pre-commercialisation” following the latest trials. 5G devices should be ready for roll-out by the middle of this year, he added.

The Internet Society of China estimates that the online information market – which includes all services and products that require an internet connection, including cars, wearable devices and service robots – was worth $741 billion in 2018, or around 6% of the country’s GDP, the Post added.

Sourced from South China Morning Post, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff