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ZTE Has New Tune, But Song Remains the Same

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
6/11/2014
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Fresh off a corporate revamp at the end of 2013, ZTE has announced a strategy revamp that shifts its focus to emerging sectors such as the cloud and big data. (See ZTE Revamps Its Top Team.)

But ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) has offered little fresh detail to support the new direction -- the awkwardly titled Enabler@M-ICT -- and the company acknowledges its core business will remain in carrier networks and services.

Last year, with the firm climbing back into the black, the operator solutions unit accounted for 54% of revenue, mobile devices 28% and enterprise 17%. (See ZTE Posts 2013 Profit of RMB 1.36B.)

Executives at a ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) analysts' event in Shanghai this week talked of their ambition to become one of the top three global smartphone suppliers and said they expect the enterprise division to account for almost a third of new revenues within five years.

But the networks business is still front and center, with a tried-and-true sales pitch.

Xu Huijun, head of the wireless unit, acknowledged that ZTE trails in foreign markets, but says it will win orders by helping operators deal with cost and competitive pressures. He sees opportunities in its ability to supply 4G overlays to reduce the cost of a full upgrade, and also in managed network services.

On the technology side, Xu flagged up the development of a "partial 5G solution" using Massive MIMO, expected to be deployed as a prototype next year. "It's not too early for 5G. Our researchers have been working on it for many years."

In contrast to its business abroad, ZTE's infrastructure unit is in the sweet spot in China, where it captured a quarter of LTE orders last year. Xu expects ZTE to be able to maintain global LTE sales as operators elsewhere begin rolling out.

The company, which is also pushing harder in the telecom software sector, this year has forecast revenue growth of 20% from its network and services group. (See ZTE Shows Off Its Soft Side.)

ZTE's Enabler@M-ICT strategy identifies four areas: smart pipes; the cloud; big data infrastructure; and devices. This broadly brings the company into line with other vendors, offering solutions aimed at helping operators manage their growing data traffic and to gain agility.

Its portfolio includes what it claims is the world's first combined SDN/NFV solution for the data center, a CDN (content delivery network) solution that is deployable at the network edge, and a cloud radio solution.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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