China Mobile didn’t even invite Ericsson and Nokia to its latest 5G tender

China seems to have decided not to even bother inviting foreign companies to bid on telecoms work anymore.

It’s hard to draw any other conclusion from the news that China Mobile only invited Huawei and ZTE to bid on the contract for its converged 4G/5G core, according to reports from Light Reading and Gizmochina. China Mobile itself doesn’t seem to have published anything and both stories seem to rely on a Chinese language report, so details may be lost in translation, such as the total sums involved.

But there seems to be unanimity on the matter of who was and wasn’t invited to bid. In fact, even the term ‘bid’ is obsolete these days as the Chinese state is clearly micromanaging the whole process and the façade of a competitive tender has been crumbling for some time. But such is the way of government interference in the market that they still feel compelled to pretend it isn’t taking place, however flagrant.

So, as ever, Huawei got most of the work and ZTE was brought in to turn a monopoly into a duopoly. The absence of any meaningful competition means the CCP will also need to keep a close eye on the subsequent work, as those involved have no commercial pressure to do a good job. On the other hand, Huawei and ZTE have a lot to be thankful for after US attempts to destroy them, so they’d be crazy not to put their best foot forward.

For Ericsson and Nokia this marks the culmination of what both of them seem to have been resigned to for some time. Another recent LR report revealed that Ericsson is already in the process of cutting hundreds of jobs in acknowledgment of its greatly diminished prospects in China. Nokia’s hopes, meanwhile, seem to rest on the Chinese state occasionally wanting to create the illusion of genuine global competition within its telecoms sector.

In a way this simplifies the whole situation: China is banning western vendors and the west is banning Chinese vendors. It’s a shame, but at least everyone knows where they stand. Stuck in the middle are multinational operator groups such as Orange, which revealed at a strategy presentation today that its Huawei policy continues to be guided by the specific rules of each country it operates in. Right now it’s hard to see any way back from the continued Balkanisation of the telecoms sector.


  1. Avatar Happiman 05/10/2021 @ 6:51 pm

    Being Corrupted, bribing, IIP infringing , China is digging holes for themselves.

    Entire nation is stealing and cheating. That’s how Chinese people think and act.
    CCP brainwashed pathetic Chinese people don’t understand why rest of the world don’t trust them
    “the InterDigital case is the latest sign of how China disregards the patents, copyrights and trade secrets of foreign companies.”

  2. Avatar Alan Weissberger 05/10/2021 @ 10:56 pm

    Balkinisation (sic) is the wrong word to describe what’s happening to global telecom markets. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica: Balkinization is the division of a multinational state into smaller ethnically homogeneous entities. The term also is used to refer to ethnic conflict within multiethnic states.

    A better description might be “mutual mercantilist policies” of China and the Western world.

    Here’s a related article corrupting this one:

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 06/10/2021 @ 9:13 am

      Whatever you say, boss.

  3. Avatar Ji 06/10/2021 @ 8:25 am

    Chinese vendor is banned in Sweden

  4. Avatar Jackdawng 06/10/2021 @ 1:26 pm

    The Western countries were the ones who started the banning of Huawei and ZTE but are not blaming China for doing the same to their telecom suppliers. How sick is this!

  5. Avatar Zizi 06/10/2021 @ 2:48 pm

    Don’t blame China, it is the Western countries led by US that started the trade sanctions and banning of Huawei. How do you expect China to play a fair game?

  6. Avatar Chrysis 06/10/2021 @ 3:42 pm

    Are you anxious about this fact Scott? You were not so concerned about other banning based on politics and not on technology, correct?

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 06/10/2021 @ 3:57 pm

      I don’t know what you’re trying to say, to be honest.

  7. Avatar Andy Tiller 06/10/2021 @ 4:42 pm

    The global trade war is ratcheting up. China was always more protectionist than the West – foreign vendors would never get the lion’s share of major Chinese operator procurements, partly due to government policies for stats-owned companies, but also because Chinese vendors are better positioned to do a good job delivering in the complex Chinese market. Fed up with this, and spooked by China’s emerging leadership in technology and innovation, the US administration under Trump retaliated with much more extreme protectionism, banning Huawei and other Chinese vendors not only in their home market but also effectively in countries allied with the US. China is now ratcheting up their own protectionism to match. This is all part of a wider rivalry between the US and China, now often described as a new cold war. We won’t avoid the Balkanization of telecoms until and unless both sides ratchet down their aggression at the global political level.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 06/10/2021 @ 5:24 pm

      Well said.

  8. Avatar shiu ling lai 06/10/2021 @ 8:34 pm

    How some choose to forget that Huawei and ZTE have been BANNED from the markets of the West for years!
    Exceptionism of certain race at work?

  9. Avatar Rudy 06/10/2021 @ 10:53 pm

    Banning is the weak strategy that has been proved at great extent that will impact the countries that is enforcing that tactical process.
    The most effected will be the western European suppliers – both on their technology leadership and on their order book.
    Let very strongly separate politic from technology matter. Banning has been on a pure political matter (for good or bad reason, only driven by Chinese protected policy in their own country – driven by Communist approach) , that have not followed by a consistent Western democratic policy.
    Western democratic policy is fragmented and extremely weak.
    The one to suffer is the technology that will miss a fair competition for the progress and sorry to say, a strong decline on Western European as China will show the strengths in push their limits.

  10. Avatar Sihangchai 07/10/2021 @ 1:31 am

    In Malaysia Maxis and Axiata awarded contract to Huawei and ZTE for their 5G network. That was 3 or 4 years ago. Yet nothing was done. Reason? One company after another was unilaterally labeled as using “Forced labor” in their operations. World largest glove producer Top Glove was blacklisted and so was the world largest palm oil producers FGV, IOI plantation and Sime Darby. Recently there was a sudden change in vendor. Now all 5G roll out are awarded to Ericsson! Shortly after that Top Glove was removed from US blacklist. Others are expected to be remove from blacklist. Down South Singapore knew all along this would happen thus without hesitation they employed Ericsson for their 5G roll out.

  11. Avatar Andrew 07/10/2021 @ 3:43 am

    The moment the Chinese are ahead, it’s BAN time. The USA made billions on 4G IP. The Chinese 5G IP is stolen. I did not know that the Chinese have achieved TIME TRAVEL to steal future USA technology.

  12. Avatar Ma Choi Fung 07/10/2021 @ 3:54 am

    scott, that you don’t understand Chrysis is talking about is because you are a dumb ass.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 07/10/2021 @ 9:09 am


  13. Avatar happiman 07/10/2021 @ 4:55 am

    Whatever you say boss. just warning you, they will treat you “兎死狗烹” as they don’t see value on foreigners like you.

  14. Avatar Cat 07/10/2021 @ 7:08 am

    It pitiful of the west when they are being spy by America & don’t dare to take any actions but accused of huawei with security concerns without evidence.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 08/10/2021 @ 9:14 am

      I don’t edit other people’s comments. Thanks for another link to one of your stories, though.

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