China's ZTE to partner with SoftBank to bring 'pre-5G' technology to Japan
Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE has struck a deal with Japan's SoftBank to bring its "pre-5G" technology to Japan, despite strained relations between the two countries around the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war.
ZTE has touted its "pre-5G" technology as providing faster speeds on 4G networks. It sees this as an intermediate step between 4G and 5G, which the wireless industry is hoping to have up and running by 2020.
Under the terms of the MOU, commercial trials will begin in Japan in early 2016, the company said.
"ZTE is making great investments in 5G to lead the industry in the development of this key technology of the future," said ZTE senior vice president Zhang Rejun. The company did not reveal how much it will invest in Japan.
"The technology being developed under this agreement will help define future mobile internet communications," said Keiichi Makizono, senior vice president of SoftBank.
ZTE is spending around US$220 million globally on 5G and other mobile communication technologies between 2015 and 2018, it said.
"Our goal is to utilise core 5G technologies on existing commercial networks ... so users can enjoy the 5G-like experience ahead of time," said ZTE vice president Li Cui.
ZTE posted a 42 per cent increase in quarterly net profit in April as strong global demand for 4G infrastructure boosted sales for the firm, which is based in Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province.
Relations between Japan and its neighbours have become strained in the months following the commemoration in May of the official end of the second world war in Europe, as memories of Japan’s expansionist moves during that period still rankle. The war drew to a close in Asia in the middle of August.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese president Xi Jinping have called for better ties between the two nations.
SoftBank has long had close ties with the Chinese tech industry. The company's founder, Masayoshi Son, was an early investor in e-commerce giant Alibaba, turning a US$20 million stake into a not-so-small fortune worth US$58 billion and earning himself a reputation as "Asia's Warren Buffet".