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China Unicom, together with Ericsson, has commercially launched a Gigabit LTE network in China, allowing subscribers to “enjoy the services and benefits available with high-speed mobile broadband data,” an Ericsson statement said.

The Gigabit LTE network upgraded by Ericsson will not only provide China Unicom subscribers with an advanced LTE experience and enhanced customer satisfaction, but it will also make full use of network resources and improve profitability, the companies claim.

“This remarkable achievement will fulfill our strategy to offer the most advanced services to individuals and enterprises on the China Unicom network,” said Hao Liqian, General Manager, Hainan branch, China Unicom. “Our launch ceremony today [August 23] is important, innovative and fun, since we’re using Virtual Reality on a high-speed train over a high-speed network to prove the worthiness of this launch.”

As one part of the launch, passengers on the Hainan Island high-speed train were able to watch the ceremony through LTE broadcast technology and the Gigabit wireless network. Ericsson, as China Unicom's strategic partner, is the exclusive provider of the LTE broadcast solution, which is China's first LTE broadcast commercial deployment.

“We’re literally putting the network into the hands of the subscribers on day one,” said Chris Houghton, Head of Market Area North East Asia, Ericsson. “People will be able to immerse themselves in their video experience and not just understand, but feel, the difference with a Gigabit LTE network while they are moving at very fast speeds. It’s the perfect combination of thrilling speeds – physically and virtually.”

Ericsson’s LTE broadcast solution will “revolutionize video delivery” in mobile networks enabled by the combination of three new standards: eMBMS, HEVC (H.265) and MPEG DASH and will address the growing consumer demand for media services, the Swedish firm said. To accelerate the development of China Unicom’s video strategy, Ericsson supported China Unicom with eMBMS in the high-speed train scenario so that passengers could enjoy high-definition video without buffering on the network.

Recently, Ericsson supported China Unicom in setting up a 1Gbps network in Guangdong, Hainan, Shandong, and Beijing with peak speeds of up to 979Mbps. With that speed, it takes just 13 seconds to download a 1080P high-definition movie. There are more on-going 1Gbps trials in Sichuan, Hubei, Shanxi, Jilin and Jiangsu province. A high-speed mobile broadband network will enable businesses and services using artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other big data operations.

From an outside perspective, China Unicom appears strong, as one of the world’s largest carriers by user numbers, but the company’s earnings haven’t measure up to its fierce competition. The carrier, according to recent reports, is perceived as slow, often lagging behind its competition in terms of developing new technologies and services, including cloud and big data services, and mobile software. 

Therefore, Chinese search engine colossus Baidu and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group are amongst a consortium of 14 strategic investors expected to participate in the sale of China Unicom shares, according to a statement released by the Chinese operator.  Funds generated from a share sale are estimated to earn the operator around $11.7 billion, which it will subsequently utilize to upgrade its 4G capabilities and help accelerate its aims to develop 5G.

The Chinese government is reportedly attempting to drive investment in state-owned giants through private capital. The government selected China Unicom among other state-owned enterprises last year, a report by Business Insider says, to see “mixed-ownership reform”.