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Chinese vendor ZTE is refocusing its strategic sales plan towards Japan in a bid to secure a number of lucrative 5G contracts ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

ZTE has been subjected to public accusations of espionage by US intelligence officials who claim that the mobile hardware manufacturer and its rival Huawei represent a risk to national security

However, ZTE is now reportedly turning its attention to expanding its sales in Japan where it is utilizing its low-cost cellular equipment in an effort to sway potential customers. ZTE expects Japan will become the world’s showcase for 5G technology and is bidding to win a number of 5G contracts up for tender from operators ahead of the Olympic Games in 2020.

Reports circulating in Japan claim that ZTE has priced its hardware at roughly one-fifth of the cost of European and Japanese competitors’ products and is using its growing Tokyo office in an effort to attract Asian and South American companies. In addition to this, ZTE has already secured a non-exclusive 5G hardware partnership with Japan’s third largest carrier SoftBank which ZTE expects will lead in both 5G base station and handset sales.

ZTE has also indicated that it is confident it will sell 5G networking gear to Japan’s leading carriers such as NTT Docomo and KDDI, although it has conceded that it expects to progress more slowly in that sector. Returning to 4G, ZTE has also recently entered into a collaboration agreement with NTT Docomo to develop a dual-screen foldable smartphone known as M Z-01K which was only released in Japan last week.

ZTE has angrily denied and refuted the allegations being labelled towards them by US officials. However, it’s acutely aware that there is now a growing movement in the United States by government officials who are pressuring US carriers to severe ties with the Chinese technology firms over fears in relation to national security. This development in the US is one of the main reasons why ZTE has upped the ante in Japan.

Leaving US concerns aside there is a global race to install affordable and efficient 5G hardware and that will undoubtedly help ZTE in many markets as many countries have accelerated their plans for next-generation cellular networks.

Though Japanese carriers have largely stuck to 2020 timetables, most appear to have set some 5G infrastructure in place by next year. Other Asian countries are still working out their plans: Malaysia hopes to roll out its 5G infrastructure in 2022-2023, while India just announced that it will finalize its 5G blueprint in June in order to keep the country at the “leading edge of technology.”

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