A technician checks a 5G station at a scenic spot in Chongqing. [Photo/Xinhua] Multiple telecom firms allowed to have a single base station for services China has started the initial work on 6G technologies and commenced effective deployment of 5G technologies in the country by enabling two or more telecom operators to use a single base station for providing multiple services, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on Thursday. Wen Ku, head of the information and telecommunications development department at the ministry, said China has already achieved 5G coverage in all its prefecture-level cities and set up 580,000 new 5G base stations till date. "The nation has taken another step forward by setting up 330,000 5G base stations that can be shared this year, which can offer services to two parties (telecom operators) at the same time," said Wen during a news conference held by the State Council Information Office on Thursday. The sharing facility is a significant step as it will reduce operating costs for telecom firms to a large extent. Earlier, telecom firms had to set up individual base stations for their exclusive use. "More efforts will also be made on research into 6G, so as to promote the sustainable development of the mobile communications industry," he said. In face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and mounting protectionism, the Central Economic Work Conference vowed to build more independent and controllable industrial and supply chains and pointed out the direction for a strong manufacturing country and a cyber power, according to Wang Zhijun, vice-minister of the ministry. Moving forward, the country will accelerate the integration and innovation of 5G and emerging information technologies and apply them into core manufacturing steps including production, logistics, and supply chains, he said. It has been more than a year since China kicked off its 5G commercialization efforts, which, according to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, will lead to investments of over 900 billion yuan ($133.6 billion) this year. In terms of 5G terminals, Wen from the ministry said that more than 144 million 5G smartphones have been shipped during the first 11 months, with 199 new models launched so far. China Mobile, the country's largest telecom operator, said late last month that it will invest several hundreds of billion yuan into 5G-related industries through equity participation and mergers and acquisitions over the next five years. Yang Jie, chairman of China Mobile, said that along with a fund of funds that hit several tens of billion yuan, the company is set to leverage both direct investment and funds to create a 5G ecosystem. "Next year, China Mobile is expected to achieve sound 5G coverage in cities, counties as well as key towns and rural areas," he said. Though this year's COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many countries' 5G rollout plans, Chinese telecom companies have been working hard to stick to their schedule. The total number of 5G base stations in China has already reached 680,000, slightly ahead of the 630,000 annual target announced by the three major telecom operators at the beginning of the year. Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association, said Chinese telecom carriers have a vast number of 5G users and terminals. "Overall, whatever the number of 5G devices or their price, China is moving much faster than South Korea and the United States, the first batch of countries to commercialize the technology," he said. According to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, the international association of mobile operators better known as the GSMA, China has consolidated its position as a global leader in 5G and is set to account for 70 percent of the world's 5G connections this year. China is also forecast to have 450 million 5G connections by 2025, the most worldwide, driven by significant operator investment and growing enthusiasm among consumers and enterprises, it said.