Chinese Sign Swedes for Major 3G Work

(23 Mar 2009, BWCS Staff)

Swedish vendor Ericsson has won a major order to supply 3G mobile network equipment to China Unicom. The Chinese company plans to roll out W-CDMA infrastructure across 15 provinces. Ericsson also reported that it had signed a deal to upgrade second generation mobile network equipment in ten Chinese provinces for China Unicom. However, the Stockholm-based company did not provide details on either the size of the deal, or as to whether it was providing access to funding for the mobile operator.

China is one of the mobile markets where vendor funding, which had largely disappeared after the demise of the dot-com boom in 2000, is making a re-appearance. Companies such as Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson which have access to funds can offer enticing deals to cash-strapped operators keen to roll out networks and access the money to help them do so, when banks are less willing to provide it.

Ericsson is believed to be a key provider of operator-funding, through access to Sweden's state credit agency. However, it is not clear if it has helped finance the China Unicom deal. The contract with China Unicom, which has some 136 million mobile subscribers, will see the Swedes build 3G systems in almost half of the country's provinces. The new W-CDMA equipment will expand on networks already built in over a dozen cities for China Unicom's 3G trial launch, which Ericsson said will begin on May 17. The operator is known to be in talks with Apple over making the 3G iPhone available to China Unicom customers. Apple had been rumoured to sign a deal with Unicom's major rival China Mobile. However, China Mobile will run 3G services over the home-grown TD-SCDMA standard and that would mean that the iconic iPhone would need to be refigured to work on the different network.


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