ZTE, Huawei, and Alcatel-Lucent have taken the lion's share of China Telecom Corp. Ltd.'s first 4G contracts, according to Chinese media reports.
Between them, the three have snared more than 80 percent of the first stage of the operator's 4G network, which will comprise both FDD and TDD LTE infrastructure.
Neither China Telecom, which currently offers its mobile services across 2G and 3G CDMA network infrastructure, nor the vendors have confirmed these numbers and the exact size of the tender also has not been disclosed. However, as a first-stage pilot network it is much smaller than China Mobile Ltd.'s 100-city tender completed seven weeks ago, which was valued at US$3.2 billion. (See Report: Huawei, ZTE Win Big at China Mobile.)
Huawei and ZTE were the most successful bidders then too, but with just a 26 percent share each. With bidding conducted in the shadow of a possible EU probe into government support for Chinese suppliers, Alcatel Shanghai Bell, Ericsson, and NSN were awarded 11 percent apiece.
As a relatively small-scale pilot, it's difficult to gauge the importance of the China Telecom contracts. However, Chinese analysts expressed surprise at Ericsson's poor showing, given its dominant role as a supplier to CDMA operators elsewhere in the world.
The tender process began in late August and was completed in an unusually short time, but that was just the final stage in a tortuous path. China Telecom had originally planned to upgrade its CDMA EV-DO network to LTE-FDD. However, under government pressure to support the state-preferred LTE-TDD standard, chairman Wang Xiaochu announced four months ago that the operator would adopt a dual-technology strategy, with FDD to be deployed nationwide and TDD solely in cities.
But its initial tender plan specified less than 10 percent for TDD and was rejected by the Ministry for Industry and IT (MIIT). The subsequent proposal, which provided for approximately 30 percent TDD, was approved.
Among the successful bidders in this first round were specialist local vendors Datang Mobile Communications Equipment Co. Ltd. , which supplies TDD equipment, and New Postcom, which makes FDD technology.
Separately, China Telecom has also opened a tender for TDD and FDD antennas. Reportedly, tender documents specify a ratio of TDD to FDD of 3:7.
The other major Chinese operator, China Unicom Ltd., has yet to open bidding for its 4G network, which will also be a hybrid.
The MIIT has said 4G licensing will begin by year-end, but has not said which operators will receive licenses, or whether the licenses will be exclusively for TDD or FDD or both.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading