2019-08-21 08:23:54

Chinese telecom giants have yet to officially respond to customer concerns about supposedly slowing internet speeds on the fourth generation of mobile network technology as the country prepares to hop on the wave of a faster fifth generation, or 5G.

Customer service representatives for the country’s “big three” telecommunication companies — China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom — told the National Business Daily newspaper on Monday that the introduction of 5G services hasn’t affected the 4G network. A high-level technology researcher at China Mobile also dismissed speculation that the telecom service providers were deliberately slowing internet speeds on 4G networks to promote the latest-generation technology.

When Sixth Tone contacted China Mobile for comment, a Shanghai-based representative from its customer service center said the company had not received any complaints over slowing 4G speeds, adding that implementing 5G services “has no effect on 4G.”

Sixth Tone was unable to reach China Telecom and China Unicom for comment by time of publication. None of the big three companies has publicly responded to concerns about slowing 4G cellular networks.

The issue became a trending topic Monday when thousands took to the internet to complain about what they perceive to be slowing 4G services. A related hashtag on microblogging platform Weibo had been viewed over 130 million times by Wednesday afternoon, with many claiming that internet speeds had recently “slowed dramatically.”

“Some 4G speeds may face interruptions due to software upgrades, and in some cases 5G-related infrastructure near 4G bases may affect network speeds,” the China Mobile researcher told National Business Daily. “It shouldn’t be that big (of a concern),” he added.

Of China’s 1.59 billion mobile users, an estimated 1.23 billion were on the country’s 4G network as of June, according to government data. However, experts forecast that over 1 billion people in the country will own 5G-enabled devices by 2024.

In June, China granted commercial licenses to four state-owned telecom companies, allowing them to operate the latest 5G cellular technology — a move that is said to have improved connection speeds. Then earlier this month, Chinese telecom company ZTE publicly sold the country’s first 5G smartphone. Within five years, Chinese consumers are projected to own one-third of the world’s 5G-enabled handsets, according to Singaporean research firm Canalys.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A staff member at a mobile phone store compares the network speeds between 5G (left) and 4G (right) services in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, July 27, 2019. Zhang Yun/CNS/VCG)