India is a key growth area in the mobile industry and ZTE is now placing itself to be among the top major players in the region's 5G market via partnerships with telecoms providers. In fact, the manufacturer has already begun to test pre-5G trials with Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Reliance Jio. Those will presumably allow ZTE to make better assessments as to what needs to be done in order to get 5G up and running. Beyond that, the company also recently took a contract from the state-owned telecommunications company – namely Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) – in a bid to help the government reach its goal to have 5G rolled out by the year 2020.
As to the specifics of ZTE's various deals, the BSNL contract will have the company overseeing network expansion into the northern and eastern regions of the country. It will be matching bids put forward by Nokia for the southern and western areas, though no specific figures were provided by the source. However, ZTE will also be providing support and 5G-ready equipment for BSNL as the expansion is completed and the next steps are taken to move beyond the current generation of networking. Although specifics of the company's partnerships with Vodafone India and Reliance Jio are also not known, as of this writing, ZTE is also providing Bharti Airtel with 5G-ready Massive MIMO technologies to prepare the network provider for that generational shift, according to ZTE India CEO Peng Aiguang. Moreover, he continues, the manufacturer is in talks with the providers to form further partnerships. Aiguang says ZTE expects those two partnerships to be centered primarily about the handling of network backhaul for the upcoming 5G networks and the creation of customized solutions to best serve each area individually.
ZTE also expressed some optimism about the prospects of 5G in the region. Aiguang says that each of the telecoms is pushing hard to be the first to get 5G to its respective customers and that could mean an even more rapid deployment of 5G than the government hopes to attain. Whether that turns out to be true will, of course, depend on how quickly international bodies can come to some kind of agreement about standardization for 5G technologies, but that outlook is not unrealistic. The government has recently stepped up efforts to evaluate and approve roadmaps and action plans for 5G and is beginning to address rollout timing and pricing for the networks. India is also one of the world's fastest-growing markets – and arguably the most important in the world for technology firms. So ZTE may now be on solid footing in terms of staking its claim in the region.