China Mobile Launches Huge LTE Infrastructure Tender
China Mobile has formally issued the tender for its largest ever contract -- to deploy over 200,000 LTE base stations across the country.
The company posted the tender document late last week and is seeking a total of 207,000 4G enabled base stations compatible with its TD-LTE service. It is expected that the deployment will expand the mobile networks' test services in 15 cities to around 100 cities and cover 500 million people.
The company has long been expected to announce the tender, and had previously said that its capital investment this year will top US$30 billion. Of that, at least US$6.7 billion is going on the 4G network rollout.
The company is widely expected to use the launch of its 4G network to try and shake off the legacy of its reliance on the locally developed TD-SCDMA based 3G network, which restricted the range of smartphones the company could offer.
The company saw stronger sales of 3G devices at its two rivals, although China Mobile is still by far the dominant operator in the country, with nearly 730 million customers.
Although the two Chinese vendors, Huawei and ZTE are expected to do well in the tender, European bidders are hopeful that they can pick up sizeable portions of the contracts.
Ericsson's executive vice-president for North East Asia, Eric Feng recently commented that he hoped the mobile network would avoid upgrading existing 3G base stations and would deploy new hardware instead. Deploying fresh hardware is "more efficient, powerful and has a similar cost to upgrades," Feng said at a news brieding last month.
However, Alcatel-Lucent was the largest single foreign winner in last year's trial LTE network deployments, and will be looking to maintain its stake at the very least.
European vendors will be hoping that the ongoing investigation by anti-competition regulators doesn't try to take action against Huawei or ZTE while the contract is being tendered -- as the Chinese government has already said that it may retaliate against the foreign companies when bidding for Chinese contracts.