In by far the largest sharing deal in history, China Telecom and China Unicom will jointly build a 5G network with over 1,000,000 base stations. 80,000 base stations were planned for 2019 between the two companies, about 400,000 in 2020.
1 network is cheaper than 2 and 2 networks are cheaper than the 4-7 usually required for competition to work its magic. The Chinese government decided the cost of the third network was wasteful and directed the companies to work together. Zhao Aiming of SASAC urged, “The three operators should take the initiative to undertake national tasks and further strengthen cooperation to avoid repeated investment in 5G.”
No one has publicly estimated coverage, but 400,000 bases should serve the heart of most cities. China Tower has over 2 million cells, most of which will be covered by the pair. The announcement spoke of saving $30B in two years. In 2021-2023, it will probably be extended to cover well over 90% of China with 5G and an Edge Network serving more than a billion people.
The typical speed may or may not be more than the 100-500 Mbps down of the other 5G builds. 5G in 200 MHz will provide over 5 Gbps to share. CU & CT can provide a true gigabit to many if that's how they design the network.
They will have 200 MHz of contiguous spectrum at 3.5 GHz, double what every carrier except Sprint and China Mobile are using. The 5G standard only provides for 100 MHz, but Huawei has modified the standard to take advantage of China Mobile's 160 MHz and presumably of this 200 MHz.
Sharing isn't new. CFO Ron Dykes told me his network and another saved hundreds of millions just in New York City by working together.(Can you guess when that was?)
MIIT has told the carriers to "accelerate" their 5G. But it will be a monstrous job coordinating two networks of this size, which would normally take more than a year. Doing better than that would require a miracle.
The Chinese telcos delivered several miracles.