Will China provide Internet access to all by 2020?

China is planning to invest $323 billion by 2020 to provide Internet access to all population living in both rural and urban areas. The country has to invest $40 billion per year for creating broadband infrastructure for the next eight years. The investment will be used for improving fixed line and wireless connectivity across China so that people can have Internet access.

With worldwide economy slowing down, China’s look inward policy will help Chinese companies in the short run and in the long run, the strategy will help government to create a world class broadband infrastructure. On the one hand, it will help consumers to transact majority of their purchase online, providing lot of savings. On the other hand, government will be able to control traffic congestion, reduce pollution in big cities and also reduce consumption of petroleum products.

Presently, only 45 percent of Chinese population have access to Internet and the government is planning to connect its entire population online by 2020. Focus is also on increasing speed both in rural and urban areas. In terms of technology, the focus is on wireline technologies like DSL and FTTH and wireless technologies like 3G and 4G for providing Internet access to majority of its population.

“Our 3G network has to cover cities and villages and at the same time, we have to put 4G into wide commercial use,” said Shang Bing, a vice minister at the Ministry of Information and Industry in an interview published on official website www.gov.cn.

The government is aiming to boost the average broadband speed in Chinese cities to 20 Mbps by 2015, which is less than what Internet users in Hong Kong and Singapore currently enjoy whereas in rural China, the broadband speeds would hit 4 Mbps by 2015.

China’s broadband strategy is to ensure that the number of 3G and LTE users increase to 1.2 billion by 2020. This is very ambitious and is almost four times the current broadband numbers. In 2013, the is planning to increase the number of broadband users by 25 million and fiber optic Internet users by 35 million.

All this will benefit carrier infrastructure vendors like Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and NSN. Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE will benefit a lot in terms of creating wireline and wireless infrastructure.

The state council has elevated national broadband development as a national strategy and has announced an implementation timetable for the next eight years.

The strategy will be carried out in three phases. First, fiber optic networks and 3G mobile coverage will be facilitated in 2013. Second, broadband coverage will be expanded from 2014 to 2015. Third, broadband network and technology updates will be the key task from 2016 to 2020.

The strategy aims to achieve Wi-Fi coverage in key public urban areas by 2013 and fixed broadband coverage for half of Chinese households by 2015. As per plan, homes in some developed cities will enjoy broadband speed of one gigabits per second (Gbps) in 2020.

If the government succeeds in providing Internet access to all by 2020, it would be a great achievement for other governments in emerging economies.

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