4. Natural Disasters in China
4.2 Relevant Government Agencies
The NDRC is a specialized government agency under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, engaged in information services and supporting decisions on various natural disasters. It provides information to disaster management departments for their decision-making. It also offers technical support to China's DRR undertakings by way of collecting and analysing disaster information using technologies such as satellite remote sensing, and conducting post-disaster assessments.
The National Earthquake Administration was established in 1971 to take charge of monitoring, research and emergency response to earthquakes. It was renamed China Earthquake Administration in 1998, as mandated by the Earthquake Prevention and Disaster Reduction Act. Each provincial, autonomous regional and centrally administrated municipal government has its own earthquake administration under the direction of the China Earthquake Administration.
5. Telecom and Broadband Infrastructure in China
The telecom infrastructure in general, and in particular, telecommunications for DRM, consists of three main layers:
• The access network
• The national backbone network
• The international infrastructure
The access network provides access to and from the end-user, i.e. individuals, businesses and institutions that use telecommunication services and applications. It consists of the fixed-line infrastructure and wireless/mobile connections, which in many countries, including China,
now vastly outnumber fixed lines. The fixed-line infrastructure is traditionally made up of copper telephone lines and coaxial cable TV networks, but increasingly also includes fibre optic connections directly to homes (fibre-to-the home) and premises (fibre-to-the-premises).
Mobile networks typically have many thousands—in the case of China hundreds of thousands—of base stations, each of which serves a relatively small area of some square kilometres or less.
The national backbone network, consisting of several sub-layers itself, connects the various elements of the access network with each other, e.g., wireless base stations, switching centres, operation and maintenance facilities, and international gateways. It includes metropolitan networks within cities and trunk lines connecting major cities or population centres with each other. Major trunk lines are typically implemented as fibre optic connections due to the high capacity demand on them. At the local level, microwave radio links are common because of their relatively low cost, and their ease and speed of implementation. However, they too are increasingly being replaced by fibre optic connections due to the rising demand for broadband data services on the access network, especially in densely populated areas. Satellite connections are used for national backbone connections to remote areas or as backup for other types of connections.
The international infrastructure connects a country to the rest of the world. This typically takes the form of very high capacity fibre optic subsea cables spanning entire oceans, which have largely replaced satellite technology in this segment. Landlocked countries depend on terrestrial transit connections via countries with coastal landing stations, or on satellites for their international connections.
All three layers—access, backbone and international infrastructure—are critical for the overall functioning of effective communications, i.e. sufficient capacity, and ideally redundancy, needs to be provided in each layer. It is of no use to build the best high-speed broadband access network if sufficient backbone and international capacity is not available to carry the traffic, and vice-versa.
In many markets around the world, the three layers are open to competition, i.e. there are several licensed service providers who have built their own network infrastructure and are offering services in competition with others. This in itself creates redundancy in network infrastructure covering the same geographical areas, but each operator will also strive to have redundancy within its own network in order to be able to provide uninterrupted service in case of temporary partial failures or outages. In China, however, the level of competition across the three layers is relatively low.
5.1 Access Networks
5.1.1 Fixed Networks
China has two major fixed-line network operators, China Telecom with around 145 million subscribers, and China Unicom with around 87 million subscribers in 2014. Although the two companies are licensed to operate nationwide, for historical reasons China Telecom has an overwhelming market share in 21 provinces in the south of the country, while China Unicom dominates in 10 provinces in the north.
By 2010, 100 per cent of China’s ‘administrative villages’ had voice telephony services and 100 per cent of towns were connected to the Internet, 98 per cent through broadband. Despite this widespread availability of fixed-line services, only a relatively small proportion of Chinese households are actually connected. Many have replaced their fixed line with one or several mobile phones, leading to a steady decline of fixed lines in service from a peak of 370
million in 2006 to 250 million in 2014, while the number of mobile subscriptions grew from 460 million to 1.3 billion during the same time period.
Including the 21 million public payphones, fixed-line penetration as a percentage of the country’s population now stands at around 18 per cent, which is low in comparison with a 94 per cent mobile penetration rate (see Section 5.1.2). This trend of declining fixed-line subscriptions and near 100 per cent mobile penetration means that the mobile networks play a much greater role for DRM when it comes to reaching people in affected areas. The use of mobile networks also has the added advantage of reaching people on the move. Nevertheless, fixed lines—especially on a fibre optic network—will always be superior to mobile access when it comes to supporting very high data rates and low latency. Therefore, fixed lines remain indispensable for those aspects of DRM that involve very high bandwidth and real-time applications, such as exchange of large amounts of GIS data and high-definition video streaming.
Around 75 per cent of China Telecom’s and China Unicom’s fixed-line customers use their subscriptions for broadband services. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is still the dominating fixed-line broadband technology, but it has declined from a peak of 119 million subscribers in 2012 to around 95 million in 2014, according to data from the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC). DSL is gradually being replaced by direct fibre optic connections to businesses and homes (FttX), and an overwhelming number of Chinese now also access the Internet through mobile devices (see Section 5.1.2). According to statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), FttX increased from 27.5 million to 68.3 million subscribers in 2014, accounting for 34 per cent of all broadband subscriptions. Ninety per cent of FttX subscribers are from the business and public sectors, and 10 per cent are residents.
Besides DSL and FttX, cable modem services using the cable TV network infrastructure plays a relatively small role in China’s fixed-line broadband access market. This is despite the fact that the country has the world’s largest cable TV market with an estimated 235 million subscriptions, and a household penetration of 55 per cent in 2013.4 Cable TV operations exist in all of China’s 31 provinces, covering most cities and many parts of rural China, so they do add a certain infrastructure redundancy to the telecom networks that may be helpful in disaster situations. Yet, due to regulatory uncertainty and a fragmented market structure, only a few of China’s cable TV providers offer voice telephony and broadband Internet access through their cable networks. The subscriber base for these services has fallen from a peak of almost 15 million in 2006 to below 5 million in 2013, according to Infonetics Research. This trend appears to be in line with the drop in DSL subscriptions as FttX gains traction in the market.
China’s telecom operators offer ADSL2+, VDSL and FttX connections with up to 100 Mb/s.
By 2013, 20 Mb/s services were available to 80 per cent of the population in urban areas, and 4 Mb/s to 85 per cent in suburban areas.
However, according to speedtest.net, the average download speed for fixed-line broadband in China was just under 18 Mb/s in 2014, although these results were based on a relatively small sample of about 264,000 tests, considering the country’s broadband subscriber base of 200 million. This is a relatively good result given the country’s geographic size and urbanization demographics, but it does lag significantly behind leading markets in Asia, namely Hong Kong, Singapore, Republic of Korea and Japan, as shown in Figure 3.
In terms of upload speeds, the gap between China and Asia’s leading markets is even more pronounced, as shown in Figure 4 China lags behind countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in this regard.
Figure 3: Aggregated daily download speeds in selected ESCAP member countries, 2014
Source: Based on ESCAP, speedtest.net
Figure 4: Aggregated daily upload speeds in selected ESCAP member countries, 2014
Source: Based on ESCAP, speedtest.net
However, as Figure 5 shows, the development of both downlink and upload speed in China in recent years is encouraging, reflecting the continued investment into expanding and improving the network infrastructure.
Figure 5: Aggregated daily download and upload speeds in China, 2008 – 2014
Source: Based on ESCAP, speedtest.net
Download and upload speed do not depend on the quality of the access network alone, they are also influenced by the backbone network (see Section 5.2). This is also the case for other quality criteria such as latency and packet loss (see Section 18.104.22.168).
5.1.2 Mobile Networks
Mobile networks play a vital role in DRM because they reach a far greater percentage of the population than fixed-line networks, they offer mobility, and they are more robust against damage as they offer fewer potential points of failure per connection than fixed-line networks (although underground wires offer the best robustness). At least in densely populated areas, mobile networks also offer a certain degree of redundancy in case of local failure of individual base stations, since a neighbouring base station will often be able to provide some degree of service in the affected area. Moreover, mobile networks can be scaled up relatively easily for temporary extraordinary traffic demand, for example in disaster areas, by bringing in mobile base stations or so-called ‘cells on wheels’. Mobile networks, including mobile broadband access therefore need to be included in any DRM plan.
China is the world’s biggest mobile market both in terms of subscribers and infrastructure deployed. Mobile network coverage is available to 100 per cent of the country’s population, provided by three operators with a total of 3.41 million mobile base stations at the end of 2014.5 There are around 1.3 billion mobile subscriptions, a population penetration rate of 94 per cent. However, the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) estimates that the number of unique subscribers is only about half of this number (or 630 million), with the remaining subscriptions being additional SIM cards that unique subscribers own for various purposes. So while mobile network coverage has reached virtually every populated part of the country, only around half of the population is currently able to afford mobile services. This has implications on the ability of people to communicate in disaster situations and receive warnings, given that the penetration rate for fixed-line telecom services is even lower (see Section 5.1.1).
22.214.171.124 Transition from 2G to 3G and 4G
With regard to network compatibility and redundancy, both of which are key components of e-resilience, the market structure in China is not ideal. For second generation (2G)
5 Barclays Equity Research. This figure may include 2G, 3G and 4G-enabled sites.
technology, two of the country’s mobile operators, China Mobile and China Unicom operate GSM networks; while China Telecom operates a CDMA-2000 network that is incompatible with GSM. Since there are very few GSM/CDMA dual-mode handsets, a customer of China Telecom’s CDMA-2000 network would need to buy a separate GSM handset to use the GSM networks, and vice versa. Which means in a disaster situation, if one of the networks is down, access to an alternative network may require the purchase of a separate handset.
The market became even more fragmented with third generation (3G) technology. In 2009, MIIT took the unusual step of issuing licences for three different technology standards to the three carriers, whilst the trend elsewhere in the world was moving towards technology-neutral licences. The Chinese-developed standard, TD-SCDMA was assigned to China Mobile;
China Unicom received a licence for the W-CDMA standard; and China Telecom received a licence for the CDMA-2000 EVDO standard. EVDO is again incompatible with the other 3G technologies and globally ended up in a niche; further development of the technology has stalled due to the superiority of other standards in terms of data rate, interoperability and future migration roadmap. But even the other two carriers, China Mobile and China Unicom, are operating incompatible 3G standards, limiting choices for consumers.
Multi-mode handsets only became available on a larger scale with the emergence of fourth generation (4G) mobile technology. China Mobile led the charge by committing early to the TD-LTE standard and launching services in 2012. China Unicom and China Telecom were both favouring FD-LTE, but licences for this standard were only granted in 2014, by which time the two operators had started rolling out hybrid FD/TD-LTE networks.
3G and even more so 4G mobile networks can deliver broadband data services at much higher speed to more people than 2G networks. Moreover, 3G and 4G offer significantly higher capacity for voice traffic and machine-to-machine communication, which means they open up a whole new world of services and applications that are relevant to DRM. Some of these are discussed in Section 6. However, while basic 2G services are available nationwide, 3G and 4G coverage will take some time to become available across all populated areas in China, and fewer people will be able to afford them initially due to the higher cost. As shown in Figure 6, GSMA expects 50 per cent of China’s mobile subscriptions to be 4G-enabled by 2020.
Figure 6: Shift from 2G to 3G and 4G mobile technology in China, 2011 – 2020
Out of China Mobile’s 800 million mobile subscriptions in October 2014 (representing a market share of over 60 per cent), only 243 million were 3G-enabled and 55 million 4G-enabled, the latter growing at around 10 million per month. Around one third of its
approximately 1.5 million base stations were 3G- and 4G-enabled, with 4G coverage available in 300 cities, covering 75 per cent of the country’s population. The operator is now preparing to deploy LTE-Advanced and carrier aggregation technology to progressively raise the peak data rates on its 4G network towards 1 Gb/s.
China Unicom had 295 million mobile subscribers in June 2014, of which 141 million were 3G- and/or 4G-enabled. China Telecom had 183 million mobile subscribers in October 2014, of which 115 million were 3G-enabled.
In order to speed up the development of their 4G networks and to save costs, the three mobile carriers formed an infrastructure joint venture in 2014, the China Communications Facilities Services Corporation, also known as ‘China Tower’, which will aggregate existing infrastructure and build an additional one million shared telecom towers across the country.
According to Goldman Sachs, China Mobile currently owns 350,000 towers, China Unicom 150,000 and China Telecom 100,000.
126.96.36.199 Mobile Broadband
GSMA research in 2013 showed that almost four in five of China’s 630 million unique mobile subscribers also access the Internet through their mobile devices, adding up to 500 million mobile Internet users. Of these, 69 per cent or 345 million people used 3G or 4G mobile broadband services. This highlights the importance of the mobile networks not only for basic voice services but for data services as well, including those relevant for DRM. The research results also point to the fact that there were 155 million mobile Internet users in China who still used relatively slow 2G services. A lack of mobile broadband network coverage and/or the higher cost of ownership were likely to be the key reasons for the continued use of 2G services.
As shown in Figure 7, Figure 8 & Figure 9, download speeds on China’s 4G mobile networks were in line with the global average of 8.1 Mb/s, according to Opensignal.com. However, some 3G networks lagged behind the global average of 1.8 Mb/s. This was likely to be due to the fact that 4G was relatively new and the traffic load on the networks was still low, whilst the penetration for 3G was already much higher.
Figure 7: Speed and Latency on China Unicom's mobile network, 2015
Figure 8: Speed and Latency on China Telecom's mobile network, 2015
Note: China Telecom does not operate EDGE/HSPA
Figure 9: Speed and Latency on China Mobile's mobile network, 2015
Latency, in general, is not very good in China. At around 600 to 700 milliseconds, 3G latency is hardly better than 2G, although theoretically it should be around 25 to 200 milliseconds. 4G latency should be around 10 milliseconds. The fact that latency is poor across the board indicates that there may be issues with the backbone network (see Section 5.2 for discussions on these various issues). Low latency is important for real-time services such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video streaming, which are relevant for DRM. If Voice over LTE is to be used for voice calls in the future, latency will have to be significantly improved.
5.2 Backbone Network Infrastructure
5.2.1 Terrestrial Fibre Optic Network
China has eight major backbone networks, some of which were merged as a result of market reform in 2008. The resulting major commercial networks are:
• ChinaNet (China Telecom)
• UniNet (China Unicom)
• CMNet (China Mobile)
In addition, there are three academic and public sector networks:
• CERNET – China Education and Research Network (Ministry of Education)
• CSTNet – China Science and Technology Network (Chinese Academy of Sciences)
• CIETnet – China International Economic and Trade Network (Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation)
China Telecom’s ChinaNet is the country’s largest Internet Protocol (IP) network, providing access for all major Internet service providers nationwide through a 40 Gb/s Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-enabled IP backbone using synchronous digital hierarchy and dense wavelength division multiplexing technologies. Backed by service level agreements (SLAs), access is available via IP, asynchronous transfer mode and frame relay with speeds ranging from DS1 (1.5 Mb/s) to gigabit Ethernet. It offers public and private peering using the Border Gateway Protocol, flexible billing options (flat or usage-based), and real-time monitoring and reporting. A map from 2011 on the company’s website shows that the vast majority of its backbone fibre is installed underground, providing the best possible robustness against damage e.g. due to natural disasters.
China Unicom’s UniNet also covers all 31 provinces of the country, uses the same state-of-the-art technologies as ChinaNet, and offers many of the same features.
Figure 10: China Unicom's domestic MPLS Virtual Private Network
Source: China Unicom
The fibre optic backbone networks of the two main operators—China Telecom and China Unicom—show good geographic correlation with population density, and therefore also with areas of high natural disaster occurrence as per Figure 2. However, some neighbouring countries with similar or lower population densities have higher fibre densities, for example in Bangladesh, India and Viet Nam.
Figure 11: Terrestrial fibre optic backbone infrastructure in China and population density
Source: International Telecommunication Union
China also has a relatively low density of fibre nodes compared with most neighbouring countries, even in the more densely populated areas of China, as shown in Figure 12. In areas at greater distances from the nearest node, the effective transmission speed and quality of service may be compromised (see Section 188.8.131.52).
China’s relatively low fibre node density becomes apparent in the speed test results in Section
China’s relatively low fibre node density becomes apparent in the speed test results in Section