The world’s first 5G wireless local area network is set to debut at Shanghai’s bustling Hongqiao station, offering 170,000 passengers who pass through the rail hub on any given day a glimpse of the future of mobile communications.

Local media in Shanghai say that even though no smartphones currently available on the market are fully compatible with the next generation network that is unlikely to be rolled out nationwide until 2020 or later, passengers using their existing phones at Hongqiao will have free access to ultra fast 5G-based Wi-Fi of 10 gigabyte broadband, capable of downloading an HD movie clip in the blink of an eye.

Hongqiao’s operators also hope that by September, when the in-station 5G network is fully up and running, there will be more 5G-ready devices on the market so that the busy station can be turned into a test bed to assess the reliability and peak performance of the network.

A screen shows real-time 5G Wi-Fi connection speed inside one of Hongqiao’s waiting lounges. Photo: China News Service
A passenger tries out virtual reality googles at a 5G kiosk inside Hongqiao. Photo: People’s Daily

A packed train station means huge quantities of data being transmitted simultaneously, making it the perfect situation for 5G to come in and speed up a clogged network with its high bandwidth, low latency and ubiquitous connectivity.

Xinhua also reported that the backbone of Hongqiao’s 5G digital indoor system (DIS) and cellular distributed antenna system was base stations and transmitters from Huawei and China Mobile’s Shanghai branch. The station’s 440,000-square-meter concourse and waiting halls as well as its 30 platforms have all been covered for seamless network service when passengers roam inside the massive rail hub. The nearby Hongqiao Airport will reportedly be included in phase two of the 5G trial expansion.

Huawei said 5G uses high frequency signals, which can be substantially weakened when penetrating walls inside a huge venue like Hongqiao. The tech giant said its 5G DIS was currently the only commercially-available solution for stable 5G indoor coverage and with the growing legion of outdoor base stations, Huawei could help 5G extend to every corner of the city.