Chinese operators are getting cracking again on 5G after government leaders last month told them to speed up their buildouts.
The Beijing leadership has identified 5G as one of a number of major projects to be accelerated to revive China's economy after two months of near shutdown. (See China 5G: Unicom and Telecom speed up rollout.)
In the last two weeks the three state-owned operators have sprung into action with a flurry of standalone 5G tenders, including supply of nearly half a million basestations.
In the latest announcement, China Telecom and China Unicom last week launched a joint tender for the supply of about 250,000 basestations compatible with the standalone version of the 5G standard, Sina Tech reported.
The two operators, which are jointly building and sharing their 5G networks, have committed to deploying the basestations by the end of the third quarter, one quarter ahead of their original schedule.
China Telecom chief Ke Ruiwen says the company has set a target of 300,000 5G basestations deployed by year end. That's a long way ahead of its current status, with just 75,000 5G sites activated nationwide.
Its partner China Unicom has opened approximately 66,000 5G sites – 43,000 self-built and 23,000 jointly built with China Telecom, according to chairman Wang Xiaochu.
He estimates the two telcos have already saved 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) each through network sharing.
Industry heavyweight China Mobile has also called tenders both for standalone and core network kit.
It is seeking gear for the deployment of 232,143 5G basestations, according to China Venture news. With 80,000 cell sites already deployed, the phase 2 rollout will raise that number to approximately 310,000 – roughly the same as Telecom and Unicom.
China Mobile is also seeking 5G standalone core network solutions, including a virtualization platform.
Separately, China Mobile last week announced the suppliers for its 9.2 billion yuan ($1.31 billion) slicing packet network (SPN) tender. Huawei was the most successful, contracted to supply 56% of terminals, followed by Fiberhome (31%) and ZTE (13%).
Li Shan, a director at industry research organization CAICT, told Sina he expected the coronavirus outbreak to affect 5G rollout only in the first quarter, with the industry likely to fully recover later in the year.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading