SCIO briefing on China's industrial and communications development in Q1

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Thursday afternoon in Beijing to introduce China's industrial and communications development in the first quarter of 2020. April 26, 2020

Phoenix TV:

During the pandemic, people have all stayed at home in quarantine and handled official business and classes online, which has contributed to the surge in network demand. What has the MIIT done to guarantee normal network operation under the high load? Thank you. 

Wen Ku:

Thank you for your question. For a long time, China's network infrastructure lagged far behind that of some developed countries. But during the pandemic, we've witnessed that China's network has undergone drastic changes. There are several signs. First, we have moved from the back of the pack to a leading position. By now, China has established the optical broadband network and 4G network with the largest scale in the world. Optical broadband users have accounted for more than 93% of broadband users, and the ratio of 4G users has reached 80%. Second, network use was formerly a luxury, but now it's a common commodity. As the quality and service level of telecommunication products continue to improve and charges decline, ordinary families now have access to the internet. During the pandemic, quarantine measures brought about the skyrocketing growth of network flow. The statistics showed that network flow during the pandemic increased by 50% compared with the end of last year. We did some statistical analysis in certain areas, and the growth rate in Wuhan during the same period reached 60-70%. Reports on some media outlets mentioned that some countries were not adapted to the high load and that skyrocketing household network use caused high-definition videos to degrade in quality. However, our online videos are all high-definition and can be broadcasted smoothly. I think the reporters here have experienced the quality. Yesterday, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology released the "Suspending classes without stopping learning" network experience monitoring report. According to the report, the download speed of the national online education platform reached 97.7 Mbps, and that of the provincial platform reached 89.2 Mbps. Right now, 85% of online users have accesses to speeds of more than 100 Mbps on average. We are gradually promoting the piloting of 1,000 MB broadband, and there have been 1.61 million users. Rome was not built in one day. The information and communications industry has made long and painstaking efforts. Especially since the 18th CPC National Congress, we have accelerated our pace of catching up with advanced technology and made plans in advance, thus achieving our current accomplishments in dealing with the pandemic.

In summary, the achievement today is attributed to four aspects. First is the support of national policies. We've given full play to the guiding role of national development plans. We set goals based on policies, plans and standards, and we drove effective investment through policy guidance, creating a favorable policy environment. For example, we started the Broadband China Strategy in 2013 that for the first time listed broadband as a kind of new-era strategic public infrastructure along with traditional elements, including water, electricity and roads. Since 2015, we've increased network speed and lowered charges continuously, advanced the high-speed broadband construction represented by optical fibers and 4G, encouraged telecommunication corporations to cancel mobile phone domestic toll call roaming fees and internet usage roaming fees and lowered international toll call fees, offering cheap and effective network services for the general public.

At the same time, the 13th Five-Year Plan put forward the index of the internet availability rate. It was the first time for a national plan to utilize this as a clear index. Under this guidance, all the market entities gave full play to their roles and developed the industry rapidly. Right now, China has constructed high-quality integrated urban-rural network infrastructure, which has helped accelerate industrial development, technology innovation and service improvement. 

Secondly, we have made moderately advanced developments in network construction. Telecommunications technology follows its own law of evolution. We have experienced the changes of 2G, 3G to the present 5G, and from copper wire to optical fiber. We have also seen the development of more advanced network construction, and have established a principle of maintaining moderately advanced development in the process. Our motivation can be interpreted as: "we would rather build roads first, than vehicles first." Due to this, we shifted from copper wire to optical fiber in advance and issued national mandatory standards for the "Fiber to the Home" network. Developers of residential communities have been required to complete the construction of optical fiber connectivity. Full coverage of optical fiber-based broadband network has been realized in urban areas. The optical fiber network access ports accounted for 91%, all with access capability of 100 megabits per second and above. We have also launched a program to upgrade the speeds of both fixed and mobile networks to one gigabit per second, and published goals for the construction of cities with full optical fiber coverage and one gigabit per second access speed. Local governments were encouraged to participate proactively. Amid the epidemic, the development of the 5G network and the one gigabit per second network has enabled 5G network-based remote medical treatment and infrared temperature measurement, working online, and learning online. 

Thirdly, we have realized universal service of telecommunications, seeing the weakness of broadband network in remote areas. We have made great strides in telecommunications across the entire country. In the meantime, even though the operation of telecom industry observes market rules, remote rural areas are places where the market rules don't apply because the construction costs of telecom projects there can't be recovered as the profits are comparatively low. As of the end of 2014, a total of 50,000 administrative villages in China had no access to the broadband network, while 150,000 administrative villages had to endure network access capability of less than four megabits per second. The digital gap between urban and rural areas was obvious. Since then, we have launched six projects to pilot universal service of telecommunications. The general approach has been for the central government to channel funds, while local authorities provide coordination and support, and enterprises playing the major role of advancing development. The projects began at places where they were easier to carry out and then tapped into places with difficulties to make advancement. For example, expanding from administrative villages to human settlements with larger populations than others, and expanding from inland areas to border areas and islands. At present, 98% of administrative villages have been covered with optical fiber and 4G networks. Full coverage of 4G network has been realized across all inhabited islands and reefs in Sansha, the youngest city of our country, and 5G signals are now available at Yongxing Island and Yongshu Reef.

Fourthly, we have pushed forward with co-construction and sharing. As we encouraged telecom enterprises to compete with each other, we also pushed for China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom to cooperate in setting up a new company by integrating their communications towers. The result was China Tower. This move accelerated cost reduction and efficiency in the industry, and offered support for the fast and massive layout of the mobile network in the country. As of the end of 2019, the sharing rate of newly-built communications towers had increased to 80%, in comparison to 14% before the establishment of China Tower. This effectively made the competition in the industry more balanced, so now vast numbers of telecom users can fully enjoy the benefits of market competition. 

If not for the leapfrog development of network construction in recent years, people wouldn't have been able to live such rich lives during the epidemic; tens of millions of enterprises and government-affiliated institutions wouldn't have been able to handle businesses online with convenience; people wouldn't have been able to work at home via the internet without difficulty; and hundreds of millions of students wouldn't have been able to continue to attend classes online without encountering problems. 

Next, we will accelerate the construction of new infrastructure projects including the 5G network, a 1-gigabit per second optical fiber network and data centers, according to the arrangement of the central government. In particular, we will speed up the coverage of 5G in major cities and gradually extend the coverage to important counties and towns, with the aim of building an independent 5G network. Through these efforts, we will continue to improve the level of network construction in the country and provide a driving force to step up high-quality development. Thank you. 

Xi Yanchun: 

I would also like to echo Mr. Wen's words. Relying on the strong support of the highly stable 5G network, we successfully hosted press conferences in Wuhan via video links and hosted press conferences simultaneously held in Beijing and Wuhan, so we extend our gratitude to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Please continue with questions. 

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