New guard topple old in LTE contract race

24 Nov 2010

As more and more cellular operators look to make the leap into Long Term Evolution (LTE), global equipment vendors are fighting a fierce battle to win lucrative infrastructure contracts. Although Chinese firm Huawei boasts the most commercial LTE agreements, Ericsson is currently the leading vendor in terms of value and size of contracts. So far the Swedish giant has been behind some of the highest profile LTE network rollouts, including the world’s first commercial system, which was launched by TeliaSonera in Stockholm in December 2009. It has also supplied equipment for the first commercial LTE operator in the United States, launched by MetroPCS just last month. It is apparent that Ericsson’s fortunes may lay with vendors with whom it has long-standing relationships, predominantly those operating in well-developed, low-growth markets. Huawei, on the other hand, has proven a dab hand at signing up small-to-medium-sized operators, typically in high-growth developing markets, where contract price is often top of the agenda. While TeleGeography expects Huawei to continue to take share from its Western rivals, Ericsson et al are not expected to give up without a fight.

According to data from TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service, there are currently twelve commercial LTE networks worldwide, with dozens more close to launch, including much-hyped deployments from Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo before the end of this year. While a trio of Western equipment vendors – Ericsson, Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent – have dominated the 2G and 3G markets and are now doing well in the 4G sphere, the past two years have seen a remarkable surge by Huawei and domestic rival ZTE. The 4G Research Service shows that Huawei has signed 18 contracts for commercial LTE deployments – more than any other vendor – including deals with some major players including TeliaSonera in Scandinavia, Vodafone Germany and China Mobile. Moreover, it has managed to weather the recent recession better than some of its larger rivals, posting a 19% increase in sales in 2009 to USD21.8 billion, while Ericsson saw its own revenues drop slightly to USD27 billion.

The 4G Research Service is TeleGeography’s online database of the LTE and WiMAX industry. The service tracks LTE and WiMAX competition and deployments in more than 140 countries, and profiles more than 650 companies that operate or are planning 4G networks. For further information please contact Peter Bell ( or call an account manager on +1 202 741 0020.

TeleGeography's 4G Research Service