China Mobile will resell 5G capacity and provide network management and backhaul to China Broadcast Network (CBN) under a ten-year agreement between China's biggest and smallest operators.
China Mobile announced Tuesday evening that the two had agreed to jointly build and share a national 5G network using CBN's 700MHz spectrum.
They will share the cost of construction equally, but China Mobile will provide network operations and management on a commercial basis and will resell capacity on its existing 2.6GHz network.
For the first 12 months of the partnership China Mobile will also sell access to its 2G and 4G networks.
The arrangement between the mobile giant and the minnow from the cable TV sector has been brokered by their respective government departments to increase competition and choice.
Both MIIT chief Xiao Yaqing and National Radio and Television Administration boss Nie Chenxi attended the announcement.
The deal was foreshadowed by last May's initial partnership agreement and contains few surprises.
But while getting it done is a big milestone for CBN, in reality all it does is deal it into the game as a startup against three powerful incumbents.
In particular, the commercial terms for all that China Mobile will provide will be left to negotiations between the two partners.
That could be a trying exercise for the smaller operator. It has little leverage and, apart from the shared 700MHz network, will depend on China Mobile for all of its connectivity.
Getting to yes will depend pretty much on China Mobile's goodwill.
Not that the mobile giant has any reason to be unhappy. The network-sharing arrangement provides access to the coveted 700MHz spectrum and the chance to lower the cost of extending 5G connectivity to rural and suburban China.
Investors seemed to take that view. China Mobile's stock rose 5.27% on the Hong Kong exchange in Wednesday trading.
The one other element yet to be settled is CBN's TV library – a highly attractive video catalog for any 5G operator.
The agreement did not cover this specifically, but it adds vaguely that the partners should also "strengthen their collaboration in areas such as product design, market operations, customer service, content, as well as national and industry standards formulation."
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading