Has ZTE Struck LTE Gold in India?

11:25 AM -- ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) has landed something of a coup in India, if local reports are proved accurate.

After months of intense pre-contract award competition in the still-developing Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) technology market, the Chinese vendor is believed to have been awarded a deal to provide LTE TDD-capable radio access network (RAN) equipment to Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) in Kolkata, one of four "circles" (service areas) where Airtel holds a BWA license. (See IndiaWatch: Bharti Chooses ZTE for 4G rollout?, Bharti to Launch LTE by Q1 2012 and A Brief Guide to India's Telecom Market .)

Airtel, the country's leading mobile operator, is one of a number of operators that, collectively, paid more than US$8 billion for new spectrum in mid-2010. In all, eight operators have BWA spectrum licenses, so there's plenty of hardware, software and support services business to be won. (See India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama.)

The decisions made by the BWA players are crucial to the development of India's communications services landscape. While the BWA sector has been (not unusually for India) bedeviled by financial, regulatory and political issues during the past year, the market and the country's government are relying on the successful uptake of BWA services to boost the country's poor broadband penetration (currently 12.5 million connections in a country of 1.2 billion people).

The decisions also have a global relevance, as operators in other countries where LTE TDD networks are planned are looking to India to see which vendors are being handed deals.

Now ZTE's main rivals in India's LTE TDD market -- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Networks and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. -- will be waiting to see if they also get the call from Airtel and from the other BWA operators.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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