ZTE expects 20% growth in India revenue; to hire over 200 engineers for new tech lab and 5G testbed


BARCELONA: ZTE expects more than 20% on-year growth in its India revenue this year, riding on backhaul and 4G expansion by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, besides the $400 million wireless contract it won from state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) recently.

The Chinese telecom gear vendor would also look at trading margins to eat into market share of its European and Chinese competition in the country, as it aims to be among top two gear vendors in India in coming years, Fan Xiaobing, senior vice president and president of global marketing and solutions, told ET.

The company has also inked an agreement with Airtel to conduct 5G lab trials in the second half of this year. Another Chinese vendor Huawei recently conducted a similar trial at Airtel facility in Manesar.

“Our goal is to be among top two gear vendors in India in coming years. In 2-3 years, we can top our revenue…We are expecting more than 20% growth in revenue in India,” Fan Xiaobing, senior vice president and president of global marketing and solutions, told ET. “In APAC region, India contributes 18% towards the overall region. India is the biggest market outside China in the region.”

He however didn’t share ZTE’s year-ago revenue figure.

At a time when vendors like Ericsson and Huawei are cutting employee base in India, ZTE said it is planning to hire over 200 engineers for its new technology centre and a 5G test best that will be set up in coming months, the senior global executive said.

“We have not reduced workforce, rather made changes in our business model for maintenance by appointing a partner…overall demand for manpower is increasing,” Xiaobing said.

The executive said that ZTE headquarters is directly overseeing the Indian market, and has committed to more resources for the country this year.

“We have a lot of R&D people in India to work on telcos like Airtel and Vodafone. The requirement of pre-5G in India is different from other markets. When our high-level management visited India recently they decided to put more R&D resources for India,” he added.

In India, telcos are rapidly expanding their respective 4G networks besides ramping up their backhaul to up capacity to support rapid data growth. Xiaobing said that Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea — ZTE customers — are expanding their 4G networks, which will drive growth for the vendor. “With Idea-Voda merging, we see more opportunities. India is very important for ZTE. It is a very large country with big population and it offers an opportunity to get a very large market share,” he added.

The executive said that transmission, backhaul, core networks and wireless are areas where ZTE sees major growth coming from in India. It recently bagged a 100G WDM Backbone Network Project and metro area network (MAN) construction contract with Idea Cellular.

On consolidation, he said, “When the number of telcos goes down, the investment size per telcos goes high. In next two years, India will have 2 million cell sites against roughly 800,000 sites currently in the market. In China, we have 4 million cell sites already. thereby, the growth potential is high.”

The executive said that Indian telcos must ramp up their investments towards network rollouts as the existing infrastructure can’t properly support the data growth. “The coverage and capacity are not enough… they [telcos] should also create powerful platforms to develop good services with the help of ecosystem partners. These services will ride on their network and drive data growth.”

On the 4G front, ZTE is working with Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular for three telecom circles each. The executive said that both telecom operators are expanding their respective networks in these circles. It is also doing intensive commercial trials of massive mimo with these telcos. “Telcos will soon look at mass deployments of massive mimo,” he said.

(The reporter is in Barcelona to cover the Mobile World Congress at the invitation of Qualcomm.)

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