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MWC Shanghai: Updates from the World’s Most Advanced 5G Market


China is paving the way for 5G on numerous fronts – from private networks and connected vehicles to XR, VoNR, new devices, applications, and use cases – as it fosters a unified technology to contribute to an empowered 5G global future.

This year’s MWC Shanghai was a front-row seat to the latest developments in the world’s largest 5G market. It was also a crystal ball for peering into telecom’s global future. 37,000 attendees saw that China is advanced enough to have already made mistakes, learn from them, and start fine-tuning strategies for next-gen telecom leadership.

Enterprise applications for 5G stole the spotlight and I’ll highlight some of my takeaways below. But the bigger picture story is that China is eager to contribute to a global 5G economy and recognizes that technology fragmentation will only hinder this pursuit. That means a commitment to collaboration as China’s tech leaders focus on stimulating the ecosystem being developed with the introduction of new apps, and content and devices that will drive it.

Every region in the world can gain insights from China’s advancements to streamline strategies at home. Let’s take a closer look at the ecosystem drivers and what we can take away from the progress being made in this fast-evolving market.

China’s expanding XR vision

A market frenzy driven by 1.1 million low-end extended reality (XR) AR/VR headsets is broadening opportunities defined by new use cases and content creation, with more products being commercialized in China this year.

Why it matters: China recognizes that a focus on enterprise and industry verticals is the way to strengthen and facilitate the market for this emerging tech to take off. More emphasis is being placed on AR glasses and specific use cases, like private networks.

Advancing the cause: The China Mobile Metaverse Industry Alliance was launched at MWC Shanghai, comprising 24 content, SDK, AI, and hardware organizations. Members will prioritize cooperation in XR terminals, content creation, underpinning technologies, and computational networks.

This aligns with Spirent’s Private 5G Networks survey that found strong demand for XR-enabled use cases like guided maintenance, remote expert support, real-time collaboration for design, and augmented training. It also supports takeaways from our work testing and assuring 5G-enabled XR QoE across display and connectivity.

The China Mobile Metaverse Industry Alliance Launch

5G VoNR’s major upgrade

5G “New Calling” – Voice over New Radio (VoNR) enhanced – will offer interactive experiences like real-time translation, automatic subtitles, multi-party video, content sharing, AR annotations, interactive menus, and AI/GPT-integrated call services.

Why it matters: Voice alone can’t drive new revenue, but injecting transformational capabilities changes the game. Initially launched in 2022, this VoNR enhancement and rebrand transforms the voice call experience to unlock new revenues and build another bridge into XR. Think of it as VoNR+++.

Proponents envision experiences like real-time, AI-powered voice translations between people speaking different languages. Expect more call interactivity as a bevy of new features disrupt the stagnant voice market with a welcome upgrade packing useful features.

In our testing, VoNR has demonstrated enhanced user quality versus VoLTE, with faster call setup times and lower latency interactions.

More phone capabilities in the cloud

Low-tech terminals will ultimately host a significant portion of smartphone and other device capabilities in the cloud.

Why it matters: We’ve long anticipated this direction for new devices like XR headsets that must be lighter and more efficient, while fast-tracking this capability for all devices can unlock and open markets.

Edge computing and cloud-based computing and storage resources will revolutionize processing as cost and complexity shift from the device to the cloud.

Yes, but: The ability to guarantee latency and bidirectional throughput will be critical for user experience and adoption. This requires robust edge architectures that can deliver commercial economies of scale.

Our work on this front has focused on proactively identifying and resolving where bottlenecks reside between OTA, transport, and cloud.

The road ahead for connected vehicles

China has progressed the connected vehicle market so substantially that the rest of the world is likely to follow the strategies being proven there.

Why it matters: A multi-year head start has churned out patents, sped progress in a race toward 100 standards, and seen advancements in road safety and efficiency, as more than 25 automotive OEMs enter various stages of C-V2X production and release.

Over 90 cities have partnered with mobile network operators to deploy tens of thousands of intelligent networked roadside units, and over 15,000 kilometers of road have been designated for testing, with another 7,000 kilometers already upgraded.

What’s next: The driver for critical mass adoption is the regulatory requirement for NCAP scoring, set for 2025. This milestone is expected to further bolster China’s leadership position, putting it two years or more ahead of the U.S. and Europe.

The time is now for stakeholders to understand how they will test, validate, and benchmark connected vehicles.

One big step for 5G

Huawei’s introduction of “5.5G” (better known as 5G Advanced) aims to enhance the throughput of 5G networks so they can deliver on expectations set years ago.

Why it matters: Think of this as a scene-setter for 6G, implementing the throughput needed to pull next-gen mobile network features into the second half of this decade to drive enterprise industrial adoption of edge, AI, and more in the digital economy.

The capabilities promised represent substantial advancement:

  • 10Gbps down and 1Gbps up utilizing advanced antenna arrays

  • Native AI-powered networks

  • Passive IoT that can power 100B connections between people, things, and vehicles

New use cases span Uplink Centric Broadband Communications (UCBC), Real-Time Broadband Communications (RTBC), Harmonized Communication and Sensing (HCS).

As China sorts technological advancements, builds ecosystems, and learns from early implementations, testing remains an essential component of understanding readiness to deliver the use cases that will drive new market opportunities.

Having the right testing strategy now helps ensure that the future will deliver as expected. Read the eBook 5G Standalone and the Race for New Revenue.

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Stephen Douglas
Stephen Douglas

Head of Market Strategy

Spirent is a global leader in automated test and assurance for the ICT industry and Stephen heads Spirents market strategy organization developing Spirents strategy, helping to define market positioning, future growth opportunities, and new innovative solutions. Stephen also leads Spirent’s strategic initiatives for 5G and future networks and represents Spirent on a number of Industry and Government advisory boards. With over 25 years’ experience in telecommunications Stephen has been at the cutting edge of next generation technologies and has worked across the industry with service providers, network equipment manufacturers and start-ups, helping them drive innovation and transformation.