China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone operator, will launch what it describes as the world’s largest 5G trial network across five Chinese cities this year, according to a report by RCR Wireless. The announcement coincides with a new Chinese government mandate requiring sharp cuts to cellular data prices as high-speed coverage expands.

Initially, China Mobile’s 5G trial network will place over 500 total base stations across Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou, and Wuhan to provide outdoor 5G service. The carrier also said that it will launch smaller-scale, app-focused trials in 12 more cities, including Beijing and Shenzhen. Collectively, the cities appear to represent the widest 5G deployment announced by any carrier for 2018.

While China Mobile is describing the new networks as being for testing purposes, they are likely first steps towards the carrier’s previously promised 2018 launch of pre-commercial 5G service in China, which is expected to continue through 2020 with over 10,000 base station deployments. China’s government prioritized 5G testing years ago with the aim of leading the world in 5G adoption, completing second-phase testing last September; Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, and ZTE all participated in the tests.

With over 890 million customers, including over 650 million on 4G/LTE networks, China Mobile is an even more dominant carrier in China than Verizon or AT&T is in the United States. The five-city test network is comparable to Verizon’s plan to offer 5G in three to five cities by the end of this year, though China Mobile is more likely to focus on portable…