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5G Base Stations $13,000 in China

Most carriers don’t order 200,000 5G base stations, so they will pay more, but that’s the actual price for the joint procurement of China Telecom and China Unicom. The 200,000-300,000 cells the two jointly are upgrading are probably more than the entire rest of the world will add. The second Chinese network, jointly built by China Mobile and China Broadcast, is growing even faster.

Huawei and ZTE will probably split 90% of the order, with Ericsson, Nokia, and perhaps CICT/Datang getting the rest. Ericsson was so worried they’d lose their share—traditionally 10%—that CEO Börje Ekholm actually threatened to move out of Sweden if the country blocked Huawei. (He didn’t.)

The price of state-of-the-art commercial base stations is now so low the new Open RAN companies will find it hard to survive. Altiostar (owned by the Japanese) and Mavenir (de facto controlled by Koch) charge much more because they don’t have the volume. Some fantasists in DC think O-RAN will result in a U.S. lead in 5G. But Indian giants (Jio-Radisys & Bharti-Tata) will soon be much larger. Ericsson, Samsung, and especially Nokia are opening up.

Since the first 5G equipment hit the market in 2019, it’s been clear to the industry that 5G would be similar in cost to 4G. Except for the U.S. mid-band, 5G networks are being built without a rise in capex. (The analysts and reporters still saying otherwise should find another line of work.)

By Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime

Dave Burstein has edited DSL Prime and written about broadband and Internet TV for a decade.

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