Has ZTE missed the 5G opportunity?

ZTE CTO Huijun Xu
It seems that ZTE has missed the 5G opportunity due to reduction in lack of focus on operator business on account of challenging market conditions.

ZTE, which signed one of the first 4G telecom infrastructure deals in India, is yet to make any 5G deal till now. Huawei, one of the rivals of ZTE, said it has conducted 5G trials in a lab environment with Airtel, a leading telecom operator in India.

For comparison, Ericsson has signed several 5G equipment deals. Nokia has bagged one 5G network deal. Huawei has not yet announced any 5G equipment deal, but taken several innovative steps.

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ZTE today claims that it has completed the world’s first IoDT based on 3GPP standard in association with China Mobile and Qualcomm. Can ZTE move ahead without main deals in China? China currently contributes majority of its telecom networking revenue.

In addition, ZTE has  launched 5G product portfolios including mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G NR products, Flexhaul, and 5G core, and is well prepared for 5G commercial deployments, said Huijun Xu, CTO of ZTE.

5G and IoT are the talking point at MWC 2018. “Exhibitors at MWC will be talking about 5G IoT use cases and applications, as the network technology gets ever nearer, despite the fact that existing connectivity types are already enabling IoT today,” Andrew Brown, executive director of Enterprise and IoT Research at Strategy Analytics, said.

The latest report from GSMA does not indicate a strong future for telecom vendors in the immediate future.

GSMA believes that a number of mobile 5G commercial launches are expected over the next three years in North America and major markets across Asia and Europe. China, the US and Japan will be the leading countries by 5G connections in 2025, while Europe as a whole will continue to make progress with 5G deployments.

There will be 1.2 billion 5G connections by the end of the forecast period – with these five regions commanding 70 percent. By 2025, two thirds of mobile connections excluding cellular IoT across the world will operate on high-speed networks. 4G will be accounting for 53 percent of total mobile SIMs and 5G at 14 percent.

Mobile operators will invest $0.5 trillion in mobile Capex worldwide between 2018 and 2020. GSMA did not reveal the 5G related investments by telecom operators.

GSMA says the number of Internet of Things (IoT) connections (cellular and non-cellular) will increase more than 3-fold between 2017 and 2025, reaching 25 billion. There were 30 commercial deployments of LTE-M and NB-IoT in 20 countries, including the US, China and across Europe.

Licensed cellular IoT connections will reach 3.1 billion worldwide, or 12 percent of total IoT connections in 2025. The industrial connections base will overtake consumer IoT connections in 2023.

The less encouraging reports from analyst firms may be prompting several equipment makers to spend less on 5G innovation at present. This is because most telecom operators have reduced their investment in 3G and 4G networks – impacting the cash flow of most telecom infrastructure companies. ZTE is facing more troubles as compared with its rival telecom gear makers.

“Integrating technologies like Cloud, software-defined everything, AI, and mesh, 5G will bring a profound impetus to network evolution, industry upgrades, and social and economic development, paving a way to a smarter and connected world,” Huijun Xu, CTO of ZTE, said at the 5G Summit 2018, an event co-hosted with GSMA.

China Mobile is looking for 5G coverage by 2020. “It will continue to strengthen 5G end-to-end development to make 5G a commercial reality,” Zhengmao Li, vice president of China Mobile, said.

VEON has a clear path to 5G Common Core that will enable all types of network access and digital transformation, Yogeth Malik, CTO of VEON, said.

Chip makers Qualcomm and Intel indicated that 5G would be the future.

Jiying Xiang, chief scientist of ZTE, said 5G will be a network to ultimate user experiences and to bring the Internet of Everything with ultra-high data rates, ultra-low latency, massive connectivity, and reliability.

Baburajan K