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Huawei, ZTE win nearly all of another huge 5G tender

Once again Chinese vendors have claimed almost the entirety of a massive 5G tender.

China Telecom and China Unicom last Friday jointly awarded Huawei and ZTE 88% of the total value of a tender for 5G standalone equipment, according to Shanghai Security News.

Quoting industry sources, the paper said Ericsson was awarded a double-digit share and small state-owned vendor CICT the remainder.

The tender result almost exactly mirrors China Mobile 5G procurement last month – right down to Nokia failing to win a single contract.

Huawei and ZTE won 86% of the value of that tender for 230,000 basestations, estimated at 37.1 billion yuan (US$5.2 billion). Ericsson won 11.5% and CICT 2.6%.

China Telecom and China Unicom, who are building a shared national 5G network, issued a joint tender for 250,000 basestations in early March.

They did not disclose the total value of the contracts, but analysts estimate that based on the China Mobile tender, in which each basestation cost an estimated 160,000 yuan ($22,590), the Telecom-Unicom procurement is worth about 32.3 billion yuan.

Additionally, China Mobile is currently tendering for a further 30,000 basestations for 5G expansion, taking the total value of 5G contracts this year to around 76 billion yuan ($10.6 billion).

That these separate procurements managed to come to exactly the same conclusions about the same vendors, including the total rejection of the US-linked vendor, indicates more than just commercial factors at play.

China Mobile chairman Yang Jie, among others, has made this clear. Speaking at a government-convened forum to discuss accelerating 5G on March 6, Yang promised that the operator would treat 5G as "a major political task."

This tells us the US and China are playing a similar game. For all their disagreements, both think that 5G is far too serious a matter to be left to foreigners. The treatment of vendors differs only in degree.

The US has mandated a 0% market share for Huawei and ZTE, which is apparently the agreed mark for Nokia in China. Ericsson seems to have been assigned a 10%-12% share.

Notwithstanding the protectionism and paranoia that now surrounds 5G, the scale of the China rollout is something else. It's in a league of its own.

As at the end of March, China's operators had built out 198,000 5G basestations. The MIIT forecasts the number will reach at least 500,000 by year-end.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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