ZTE, Huawei push 5G-ready gear for SoftBank deployment in Japan

Project shows Japanese operator’s confidence in the two Chinese suppliers’ telecoms equipment, despite ongoing US probe into their operations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 10:22pm

Telecommunications equipment makers ZTE and Huawei Technologies are quietly helping spearhead the deployment of advanced 5G-ready mobile infrastructure in Japan, despite lingering concerns about US scrutiny of their operations.

Equipment from ZTE and Huawei is exclusively involved in the world’s first commercial roll-out of Massive Mimo technology in Japan, according to industry sources.

SoftBank Corp, the domestic telecommunications subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp, and affiliate Wireless City Planning, last Friday started their so-called 5G project that will see Massive Mimo deployed as part of plans for a full 5G mobile services launch in 2020.

Massive Mimo, also known as large-scale antenna systems, represent one of the key technologies behind future 5G networks. Industry standards for 5G remain under development.

“The SoftBank-branded equipment used in that implementation in over 100 urban base stations in Japan is really a mix of ZTE and Huawei network products,” a person with knowledge of the SoftBank project said. “It shows the operator’s confidence in the technologies from the two Chinese suppliers, both of which happen to be under investigation by US authorities.”

It shows the operator’s confidence in the technologies from the two Chinese suppliers, both of which happen to be under investigation by US authorities
Industry source

In June the US Department of Commerce opened a probe into Huawei’s operations at its US headquarters in Plano, Texas, over the alleged shipment of telecommunications equipment with American technology to nations like Iran, North Korea, Syria and Cuba which are subject to rigid and longstanding US exports controls.

That inquiry followed the agency’s investigation of ZTE earlier this year over its alleged sale of telecommunications equipment containing US hi-tech components to Iran in 2011. In March the US slapped ZTE with restrictions on sourcing components from American suppliers for its alleged violation of export controls on Iran.

In August the US granted ZTE its third three-month reprieve since March from those restrictions.

Spokesmen for Hong Kong-listed ZTE and privately held Huawei declined to comment directly on SoftBank’s 5G project when contacted by the South China Morning Post.

However, the two Shenzhen-based companies separately pointed out that each had signed a memorandum of understanding with SoftBank last year for the research, development and evaluation of key technologies that support future 5G mobile services.

Shares of ZTE slid 1.33 per cent to close at HK$11.84 in trading on Tuesday.