5G was an industry revolution in China. It’s in Brazil?

Mobile networks with “pure” 5G technology, which make it possible to fully exploit the advantages of this type of connectivity, are debuting in Brazilian capitals this year. A few days ago, it was the turn of the largest Brazilian city, São Paulo, to inaugurate its network, which already allows ordinary users, like you and me, to enjoy much higher speeds than 4G networks and have more stability in the connection.

In addition to satisfying individual users, the introduction of 5G has the potential to transform various industries, such as logistics, healthcare, education and even more traditional areas such as steel and construction. This is already the reality in China, a country that leads the implementation of 5G connectivity around the world.

According to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), the United Nations telecommunications body, in China more than 381 cities already have the 5G network and 87% of rural areas in the country should be under 5G coverage by the end of the year. . The number of installed towers, which exceeds 1.4 million, is also the highest in the world, ahead of countries such as the United States, Germany and Japan.

In proportional terms, however, the most connected countries are South Korea, followed by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and… Hong Kong, which is part of China. All these locations have around 30% of their population with frequent access to 5G.

Contrary to what happens in Brazil, the United States and even Europe, the success of 5G in China is due to state investments.

While in most western countries the private exploitation model prevails, in which different private companies bear the (heavy) investments in the construction of new networks, in the leading country in this sector the expenses are made by large public telecoms, such as China Telecom, China Mobile and Unicom.

The result of the rapid expansion of 5G is increasing the productivity of many local industries.

In Jianxi, a province in the southeast of the country where the steel industry thrives, the classic images of workers dripping sweat in hot, dusty and noisy environments to operate furnaces have been replaced by remote operations. Using joysticks or keyboard and mouse from bases possibly hundreds of kilometers from the furnace, operators organize the production of steel and other metal alloys. The method is only possible thanks to the low latency (delay time between command and response, in an internet network) of 5G networks.

The same characteristic (low latency) allowed an increase in the number of trips made, in cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai, by autonomous, driverless taxis, and the expansion of remotely operated surgical centers.

In China, a country where regulation facilitates access to telemedicine (exams and remote consultations), surgeries performed by specialists who are far from the patient are allowing residents of remote areas to be treated without having to travel to large cities, which saves resources of families and health services.

In the logistics industry, the expansion of 5G has allowed the spread of small autonomous vehicles, which travel under sidewalks, for use in the delivery of parcels.

In China, more than 50% of retail is concentrated in online channels. For comparison, in Brazil, only 11% of retail purchases take place on digital channels.

The Chinese case is relevant because it allows us to observe, in practice, how 5G should impact several industries in Brazil, contributing to increase their efficiency and productivity.

The current dilemma in China is how to keep its 5G network expanding while the country depends on some imported components, such as microprocessors.

Due to the trade (and technological) war with the United States, American authorities have been pressuring partners in Korea, Germany and, especially, the Netherlands (a country that produces chip-making machines) not to sell components to Chinese companies.

On our side, the dilemma of competing with the Chinese industrial park is that, when we reach the level of technological maturity shown by them now, certainly their industry will already be at a new level of production, keeping us in a position of permanent technological backwardness.

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