China is fully ready for the full rollout of fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications technology, and it's leading the world in the industry's development, experts said.
However, they warned that the launch of 5G services may be hindered by shortcomings in domestic semiconductor manufacturing that can't be fixed quickly.
Domestic cellphone chipmaker Spreadtrum Communications Inc has said it will launch commercial 5G chip production by 2019, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.
Huawei Technologies will launch its first 5G-enabled phones as early as 2019, said Hu Houken, deputy chairman and rotating chairman of Huawei, at the 2018 Summer Davos Forum held in North China's Tianjin Municipality last week.
"Our entire industry, from devices to infrastructure, is ready for the final rollout of 5G technology," Hu noted.
However, Liu Kun, a Beijing-based semiconductor industry analyst, told the Global Times on Monday that China is still "strangled" by its Western partners in the chip manufacturing sector when it comes to developing 5G technology, as shown by the ZTE case.
"Although chip companies in the Chinese mainland can do a good job in designing 5G chips, when it comes to manufacturing, which is a more complicated phase of the 5G chip production process, they have to rely on others," Liu said.
Chinese chipmakers have achieved major breakthroughs, and they're now targeting the middle- and high-end markets in terms of mobile communication chip design with the advent of the 5G era, according to the Xinhua report, which cited Zhao Weiguo, chairman of Tsinghua Unigroup.
"China can make its own 2G chips, but that's three generations ago, and the nation may not be able to catch up in the short run," Liu noted.
Xiang Ligang, chief executive of telecom industry news site cctime.com, told the Global Times on Monday that despite disadvantages in the chip-manufacturing sector, China is leading the world in 5G development. It has a complete industry layout ranging from infrastructure to operators and application businesses, and no country can compare.
China is forecast to be the world's largest 5G market by 2025, according to a report by GSMA Intelligence, a global mobile think tank, and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT).
The CAICT has forecast that 5G will drive 6.3 trillion yuan ($946.8 billion) worth of economic output in China by 2030.
Xiang further pointed out that given growing trade protectionism in the global context, it's possible that some political factors might hinder the development of 5G technology in China, or even in the world.
Despite this, it's not possible for another ZTE-like case to occur, since some US-based chip producers rely heavily on Chinese businesses, Liu said.
Given China's strong phone production industry, orders from China might account for as much as 80 percent of their businesses, Liu estimated.