With massive 5G contracts due, ZTE denies it gets a reserved share of Chinese 5G market

No special favours in China, says ZTE. We compete, and win, on technology alone.

ZTE has said that it gets no special favours from Chinese operators and has to compete in an open competition to win 5G base station contracts in China. It claimed that rival western vendors have fallen behind because they can not meet the exacting technical and logistical requirements demanded by Chinese mobile operators.

By ZTE’s calculations, last year Chinese operators awarded contracts totalling about 130,000 base stations. ZTE said in June 2019 that it had “shipped” 50,000 5G base stations.

The vendor said that Chinese operators will ramp up a second phase of deployment in 2020, with contract awards due for around 600,000 base stations. Shares of those have not yet been allocated officially. Xiao Ming, President of Global Sales, said that awards would “probably” be public at the end of March 2020, with deployments starting in Q2. Ming said that ZTE expects to win a similar 5G share to the 35% share it achieved in the country’s LTE deployments. 

But the vendor forcefully denied the suggestion that its market share is due to any Government directive or special dealing by the operators. “No. No way. The process is open, public and fair,” said David Dai, Head of Brand for ZTE. 

“It’s the technical capability which we are seeing gives us a good winning chance because we are more capable than the other vendors,” Xiao Ming said. 

Summer Chen (Chen Zhiping), Director of Wireless Solutions, ZTE, said that from a technical point of view the two western vendors’ testing results, roadmap and delivery progress is quite late compared to the Chinese vendors.  

Chen said, “The Chinese market requirement is the highest. First the scenario is the most complex. In other countries the requirement is just for macrocell at first, but in China they want all kinds of scenarios, metro, indoor, high speed railway station coverage and so on. Second is the requirement for the specifications, for bandwidth, power consumption and peak and average throughput. Each of the technical requirements is higher than in other areas. And the third is the large scale pressure for delivery and logistics. All these things combined together put huge pressure on the other vendors.”

China Unicom and China Telecom are building out a shared 5G network, and have committed to building 250,000 5G base stations by Q3 2020. China Mobile is rolling out its own 5G network and has a target of 300,000 deployed 5G base stations by the end of 2020. China Mobile has 160MHz bandwidth at 2.6GHz while CT and CU have 200MHz in the C-Band, which ZTE’s Ming said was a technical challenge for vendors to meet.

ZTE is set to release a series of product announcements that would have co-incided with Mobile World Congress. The vendor said that one of its launches would have been a 320W radio unit with integrated antennas that can support 64T/R MIMO and 400MHz bandwidth, and that weighs only 22kg. That means it can be installed by a single person, ZTE said, with the weight limit for a single technician installation standing at 23kg. Last week rival vendor Huawei launched a similar AAU weighing in at 25kg. Both vendors said a more typical weight for such a product has been 40kg. 

The new radio unit builds on a 32T/R version ZTE announced mid-2019. The vendor has also recently announced support for Super DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) that can share 2/3G spectrum as well as 4G spectrum with 5G deployments. It is also launching FAST (FDD Assisted Super TDD) – a solution that aggregates TDD and FDD carriers to give an enhanced 5G uplink, which has been a key limitation on 5G TDD deployments to date.