China’s 5G launch has been underwhelming

(Image credit: China Mobile)

Whether it’s too expensive, too slow or not enough coverage, China’s 5G networks certainly haven’t been too positively received by customers. 

China Unicom, China Telecom and China Mobile launched the new 5G service in 50 major cities on Friday, making it one of the biggest roll-outs to date. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing since. 

“I’m missing all three requirements.” 

The release of China’s 5G service was highly anticipated but judging by the reviews of many customers, it appears to have fallen flat. 

“A 5G phone, a city with 5G network, and being able to pay for the data package,” wrote one user on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform. “I’m missing all three requirements.”

Another user was disappointed with the speeds, “the coverage is pretty wide in Zhengzhou, but it isn’t as fast as I thought.”

As China and the US compete for a leading spot in technology, the success of 5G is vitally important in each country. However, China is expected to invest more than US$150 billion in 5G by 2025, which could result in the network seeing huge improvements.

A costly network 

"The cost of the cheapest data package is about what I spend on food for six days - I can’t afford it."

Weibo user.

Chinese telcos have already lowered the cost of their 5G plans following customer complaints, however, it appears to remain an issue for many. Edison Lee, an analyst at Jefferies Financial Group, describes the difference between 4G and 5G as the “difference between travelling on a bus or a Ferrari.” And it appears that many users still aren’t willing to pay the premium. 

Chinese 5G plans start at 128 yuan ($18) a month for 30GB of data. On top of this, customers will require 5G-compatible phones, further adding to the cost. 

“5G phones are expensive, mainly because of expensive components, intellectual property rights and research and development,” explained Zahid Ghadialy, principal analyst at 3G4G. “This will fall next year, but will take at least until 2022 to reach similar levels as 4G phones.”

However, consumers aren’t ready to accept this, with one Weibo user concluding by saying, “the cost of the cheapest data package is about what I spend on food for six days - I can’t afford it.”

Fiona Leake

Fiona discovered her love for investing and making money from a young age. Since then this interest has grown and now she loves writing about investing and business, and follows the 5G market closely. She is also a technology enthusiast, and so they tend to be her favourite investments.