The last great marketing battle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 February, 1994, 12:00am


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IT may yet go down in business history as one of the great marketing battles.

MBA students will study the strategies for years to come as a huge, untapped market was opened up from scratch.

In the fight for supremacy in China's cellular telephone market, several of the world's biggest electronics firms have been fighting a fierce war.

Now it has come down to two real competitors - Motorola of the United States and Sweden's Ericsson. The rest of the world's biggest names are surprising also-rans.

For Motorola, China is probably now the biggest market in the world outside the US. For Ericsson, China may be the biggest.

Deals in this area are measured in tens of millions of dollars and sometimes hundreds of millions. From a standing start in 1987, China has emerged as the fastest-growing of all cellular markets.

In 1990, there were only 20,000 subscribers. By the end of last year, the number was fast approaching 500,000.

Ericsson controls the crucial Guangdong battlefield - representing more than half the existing China market.

Motorola has strength in depth across much of the rest of the country.

The two are closely matched. Motorola has 46 per cent of the market in installed systems, with Ericsson holding about 35 per cent.

The jockeying for position in the early stages has been crucial.

Most of the ''outsider'' groups are pinning their hopes on the new generation of GSM, digital cellular phones as the only way to force their way into th two-horse race.