Ericsson, Nokia ink 5G deals with Chinese operators – report

5G globe
China’s major telecom providers just launched 5G service last week. (Getty Images)

Ericsson and Nokia have each reportedly signed 5G contracts with China’s three major mobile operators, according to Chinese outlet Shine.

Nokia’s deals with China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, together total $2.24 billion and cover network upgrades and 5G construction, Shine reported. Swedish rival Ericsson also scored a 2020 framework contract for 5G with China’s carriers, but the value was not disclosed.

"The Frame agreements in China are an important and normal part of the progressive steps in the discussions with all the Chinese operators for future development of telecom networks in China," Nokia said in a statement emailed Monday to FierceWireless. 

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The frame agreements define the scope of possible cooperation between the Finnish vendor and the Chinese service providers, including end-to-end products and technologies, as well as exploration of enterprise sectors. 

An Ericsson representative was not immediately available for comment.

China’s major telecom providers just launched 5G service last week, with plans that start around $18 per month for 30 GB of data. Before next-generation services even launched, the Beijing News in October reported the three operators had already racked up nearly 9 million 5G subscribers in advance - China Mobile had 5.32 million subscribers in early October, China Telecom hit 1.76 million subs, and China Unicom was in line with 1.75 million users.   

RELATED: China launches commercial 5G, but it’s a month late

In late August China Telecom and China Unicom announced they had reached a tentative agreement to jointly build and share 5G network infrastructure to help hasten rollouts and lower costs.

Although China’s launch comes after South Korea and the U.S., the country’s deployment plans are ambitious with more than 80,000 5G base stations already deployed, and about 130,000 expected by year-end.

China Daily in June reported that Ericsson and Nokia were already winning key 5G contracts from China Mobile, though less than domestic vendor Huawei. In total, deals with China Mobile were reportedly worth about $2 billion.

Ericsson earlier this week announced a partnership with Chinese handset maker OPPO that established a joint lab in Shenzhen to optimize 5G products and network performance.

As U.S.-China trade tensions continue, with vendor Huawei often at the center, others, including Chinese smartphone makers have lost ground in China as public favor rallied around Huawei.

With continued uncertainty, some companies like Apple have reportedly considered moving production operations out of China. Samsung Electronics ceased mobile phone manufacturing in the country this year, closing its last factory in October.

Editor's note: This article was updated Monday, Nov. 11 to include statement from Nokia. 

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