China Mobile gears up for 4G network expansion
China Mobile, the world's largest wireless network operator by subscribers, has apparently kicked off its 4G network expansion by awarding the bulk of contracts to Huawei Technologies and ZTE, the mainland's two biggest telecommunications equipment manufacturers.
Citing industry sources, Reuters yesterday reported that China Mobile awarded supply contracts worth about 20 billion yuan (HK$25.1 billion) in its recent 4G infrastructure tender, with Huawei and ZTE getting about 25 per cent each of that total.
Swedish giant Ericsson, the world's largest supplier of telecommunications equipment, obtained about a 10 per cent share of the China Mobile tender, the sources said. French group Alcatel-Lucent and Finnish supplier Nokia Solutions and Networks each secured that same percentage share.
China Mobile, which had 744.965 million subscribers at the end of last month, published on June 21 its tender for network equipment based on the indigenously developed 4G standard called time-division long-term evolution (TD-LTE).
The tender, the financial terms of which was not disclosed, was for the build-out of about 207,000 TD-LTE base stations to cover the main districts of 100 major cities across the mainland.
A spokeswoman for Hong Kong-listed China Mobile declined to comment on the Reuters report, but said "there has been smooth progress" in the TD-LTE network equipment tender.
She added: "There won't be a formal announcement on the tender results."
Huawei and Ericsson also did not comment. ZTE spokesman David Dai Shu told the South China Morning Post: "Due to the non-disclosure agreement with China Mobile, we cannot disclose any information about its TD-LTE tender."
China Mobile, which has budgeted 190.2 billion yuan in capital expenditure this year, said last week that it planned to procure about one million TD-LTE mobile devices, including smartphones, this year. Beijing is widely expected to grant 4G licences on the mainland in the fourth quarter.
In a research note released last week, Alen Lin, executive director and head of regional telecommunications research at BNP Paribas, said the launch of commercial 4G services on the mainland this year would "position China Mobile ahead of the competition by one or two years".
The timing of China Mobile's 4G network expansion and the issuance of 4G licences may augur well for Apple, which has long been in talks with the operator to be a carrier-partner for the iPhone.
Last month, China Mobile said chairman Xi Guohua had met Apple chief executive Tim Cook in Beijing "to discuss matters of co-operation".