State-backed full-service providers China Unicom and China Telecom have signed a 5G network co-build and co-share cooperation agreement. Under the deal, the two firms will work together to construct a single nationwide 5G access network. Responsibility for the construction, operation and maintenance of the shared 5G network will be divided between the cellcos on a region by region basis, with each of the providers bearing the relevant costs. In addition to the access network, the cellcos will also share 5G spectrum resources but will build separate core networks. Announcements from the two cellcos noted that ‘ both parties will jointly ensure a unified standard on network planning, construction, maintenance and service in the 5G network co-build and co-share regions, and assure the same service level’. In addition, any cooperation agreements with a third party must not harm the interests of the other party.
Regarding the network construction, the two operators have chosen to designate responsibility on a district basis for 15 major cities, with the ratio of districts split between Unicom and Telecom 6:4 for five northern cities – Beijing, Tianjin, Zhengzhou, Qingdao and Shijiazhuang – and 4:6 in the in the following ten southern cities: Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, Changsha, Wuhan and Chengdu. Elsewhere, China Unicom will be solely responsible for nine cities in Guangdong and five cities in Zhejiang and eight provinces – Hebei, Henan, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Shanxi – whilst Telecom would be responsible for construction in ten cities in Guangdong, five cities in Zhejiang and 17 southern provinces.