China plans to bring gigabit Internet speeds to its major cities by 2020, part of its effort to expand broadband among households in the nation.
The Chinese government set out the target in its new broadband strategy announced on Saturday. By 2020, Internet speeds will need to reach 50 Mbps (mega bits per second) in the country's cities, and 12 Mbps in China's rural areas.
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In addition, gigabit Internet service, which can reach 1000 Mbps, will be available in the country's more developed cities, according to the government.
China has the world's largest Internet populace at close to 600 million. But average Internet speeds in the country currently reach 1.7 Mbps, putting China far behind many of its peers in Asia, according to a report from Akamai Technologies, a content delivery and cloud infrastructure services network.
South Korea, for example, has speeds of 14.2 Mbps, while Japan's Internet reaches 11.7 Mbps. In the U.S. Internet speeds average at 8.6 Mbps.
China aims to change this by delivering broadband to 400 million households by 2020. The nation also wants to bring 3G and 4G mobile use to 85 percent of the population. Currently, only about 27 percent of China's mobile phone customers use the faster 3G networks.
China announced its broadband strategy after the government announced it would launch a stimulus program to further develop its IT industry. The program may not only boost domestic sales of smartphones and PCs, but also drive more investment to IT companies in the nation.
At the same time, the country is also planning to issue licenses for commercial 4G networks later this year. The upcoming 4G networks are expected to have speeds of over 100 Mbps.
China has previously set out goals to increase Internet speeds in the nation. In 2011, the authorities also launched an anti-monopoly investigation against state-controlled broadband providers China Telecom and China Unicom for keeping prices for Internet access high. In response, the two companies have pledged to raise Internet speeds for their customers, while keeping prices low.