China Mobile has announced the results of its latest round of contract negotiations for the manufacture of 230,000 5G base stations, with $4.6bn of an estimated $5.2bn going to Chinese companies, most notably Huawei (57%) and ZTE (29%).
With almost one billion subscribers, China Mobile – the state-owned telecoms company – is the world’s largest mobile telecoms provider, and with a listing on both the NYSE and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it also has the biggest market cap of any telecoms company.
So when China Mobile is looking for new partners, it’s a big deal for companies both in and outside the People's Republic of China. However, as with previous bidding rounds, China Mobile has – not surprisingly – opted to work with Chinese companies rather than foreign ones.
“The outcome is a reflection of the market reality as much as it is of the political reality,” Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy, told the FT.
Huawei adds to its contract tally
At a London-based event in February, Huawei said that up to that point it had been awarded 91 contracts to build 5G networks around the world, and whilst some commentators questioned this number, there’s no denying that the China Mobile announcement will be a huge boon for a company that has become one of the world’s most controversial tech players.
It wasn’t all bad news for companies based outside China, though, with Ericsson walking away with 11.5% of the contracts, whilst Nokia – which previously secured around 6% of business in China Mobile’s first phase of its 5G roll out – got nothing. The reason for Nokia being frozen out of this latest round of contracts isn’t yet known.
In a statement following the announcement Nokia said that it was aware that China Mobile had announced its 2020 5G NR CP2 central bidding results, and despite being unsuccessful, it reiterated its commitment to working in China.
“Nokia has been operating in China for 40 years and our commitment to China remains the same,” a statement said. “We still expect to be a sizeable player in China well into the future and in addition to supporting the Chinese operators’ 5G ambitions, we continue to pursue opportunities with service providers in core, routing, transport, fixed access and our current 4G business, as well as with Enterprise and Webscale customers.”