Chinese vendors win nearly all of China Mobile’s 5G business – there’s a shock

China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, has completed the second phase of its 5G tender and 86% of the work went to Huawei and ZTE.

The news comes courtesy of and is written in Chinese, so we’re once more indebted to our China correspondent for a translation, as Google Translate really struggles with that language. “China Mobile’s second phase 5G construction has selected bid winners, total investment CNY 37.1 billion. Huawei and ZTE combined win 86% of the total,” reads the headline.

The main event is the table below, which displays the following information, from left to right: Province | Number of base stations | Huawei | ZTE | Ericsson | China Information Communication Technologies Group Corporation. Underneath each vendor is the bidding price in CNY and the proportion of the base stations won.

Some of the mechanics of the bidding process remain a mystery, especially with such similar bids yielding such different proportions. In one province Ericsson seems to have out-bid CICT but got a smaller proportion of the work. Notable by its absence is Nokia, which apparently did get involved but failed to win anything.

While we’re sure everything about the bidding process was totally transparent and above board, it comes as no surprise to see the process dominated by Chinese vendors. All the aggro around Huawei and the US was already threatening a balkanisation of the technology industry and growing western criticism of China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic will surely only accelerate that process.

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The MVNO private networking opportunity periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issue. In this exclusive thought piece, Will Townsend, a Senior Analyst responsible for Networking Infrastructure and Carrier Services at Moor Insights & Strategy, discusses private networking, and the opportunity it presents to MVNOs.

Private cellular based networking is gaining momentum globally for use cases that span energy, transportation, logistics, healthcare, mining, and manufacturing among others. Enterprises are beginning to tap its potential with current 4G LTE infrastructure given longer signal propagation outdoors and lower latency relative to Wi-Fi. As 5G is deployed, there will be dramatic improvements over LTE in the form of latency, throughput, and the ability to virtualize network functions. Private networking will also bring needed operational agility in form of fine-tuning performance for specific application needs.

The ultimate success of private networking deployments will lie in the ability for it to be delivered as an integrated solution. Consequently, Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are well positioned to capitalize on the monetization opportunity. Enterprises simply don’t have the competency to piecemeal cellular-based networks together, and MVNOs possess cellular infrastructure management “know how” that will be invaluable to enterprises. Nokia Enterprise in my mind is leading private networking infrastructure enablement for service providers and should serve MVNOs that wish to create managed service offerings. If interested, you can learn more details about Nokia’s offerings here.

In my mind, the democratization of licensed spectrum with initiatives such as the CBRS Alliance in the United States, similar initiatives and investigations in Europe and Asia, and the availability of non-carrier grade private networking equipment presents a unique opportunity for MVNOs. In a 5G world, operator leadership will be defined by innovative service delivery and not access. Private networking is poised to improve manufacturing yields in an industrial 4.0 era, create safer workplaces, and accelerate digital transformation in a multitude of industries. Those MVNOs that seize the opportunity have the potential to differentiate themselves and reap the financial rewards.


Mr. Townsend advises some of the largest networking infrastructure providers and carriers in the world. He has been featured on NPR, CNBC, in the Wall Street Journal, and frequently contributes on providing insights into both enterprise networking and 5G. Mr. Townsend is also ranked as one of the top networking analysts in the world as measured by ARInsights. In September 2020, Mr. Townsend is set to speak at MVNOs World Congress in Berlin.

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The two-year wait for the T-Mobile/Sprint merger is finally over

653 days ago, T-Mobile US and Sprint formally submitted the paperwork to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a $26 billion merger, and today it is officially complete.

As of April 1, 2020, the merged business unit will now trade on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol ‘TMUS’, officially bringing an end to Sprint as a corporation. This has been a drawn-out and very expensive period for the two firms, but the management teams can finally relax.

And for the energetic, erratic and eccentric John Legere, the days over leading the Magenta Army into battle have also drawn to a close.

Mike Sievert, the new CEO of the combined company, might not have the energy or flair Legere possesses, but perhaps that is a good thing for the next few months. Over the last few years, T-Mobile US perhaps needed a flamboyant CEO to mount a challenge to the leadership position of AT&T and Verizon, but the immediate future for this firm requires a different type of manager.

Now the legal and regulatory hurdles have been negotiated, the new business will need a logical, pragmatic and steady hand to lead integration efforts. Perhaps this is what Sievert is? Having been Legere’s first hire, maybe he was the yin to yang, the balance to the madness which the wild-eyed John brought to the firm.

“During this extraordinary time, it has become abundantly clear how vital a strong and reliable network is to the world we live in,” said Sievert. “The New T-Mobile’s commitment to delivering a transformative broad and deep nationwide 5G network is more important and more needed than ever and what we are building is mission-critical for consumers.

“With this powerful network, the New T-Mobile will deliver real choice and value to wireless and home broadband customers and double down on all the things customers have always loved about the Un-carrier. T-Mobile has been changing wireless for good — and now we are going to do it on a whole new level.”

With today (April 1) being the first day of operations under the new cloud of expectation, T-Mobile has to deliver on the promises it has been making. This is the challenge which Sievert will face.

Firstly, the integration of the two businesses is no small feat. Secondly, the aggressive 5G rollout has to continue. And finally, the promises made to the various different regulators and Attorney Generals will have to be honoured. And perhaps above all else, business value will have to be demonstrated to investors otherwise heads will roll.

And what do we have to look forward to over the next couple of years:

  • The promise of a network which will have 14X more capacity than T-Mobile could deliver alone. The new company has set a six-year timeline to meet this milestone
  • Within six years, the team promises download speeds which are 15X faster than what can be delivered today
  • Also within the six-year window, 100 Mbps 5G download speeds will be available to 90% of the US population, while 5G will be available to 99% of the population
  • $40 billion will be invested into the network
  • The deal has promised to unlock at least $43 billion in synergies for all shareholders
  • Create 1,000 jobs in a customer service centre in Kingsburg, California
  • Create 1,000 jobs in Rochester, New York
  • Open 600 new retail stores across the country

Some of these commitments will have been made to ensure the lawyers stop being a nuisance blocking the completion of the transaction, but now it is over to Sievert who has the unenviable job of delivering on promises made by wild-eyed Legere.

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