Reeling from highly public accusations of espionage levied by U.S. intelligence officials, Chinese mobile hardware manufacturer ZTE is expanding its sales efforts in Japan, where it is using low-cost 5G cellular equipment to woo potential customers. The Nikkei Asian Review reports that ZTE is working to win 5G contracts from Japanese carriers ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which it expects “will become the world’s showcase for 5G technology.”
According to the report, ZTE has priced its hardware at roughly one-fifth the cost of European and Japanese competitors’ products and is using its growing Tokyo office to pitch Asian and South American companies. ZTE already has a non-exclusive 5G hardware partnership with SoftBank, Japan’s third-largest carrier, which it expects will lead to both 5G base station and handset sales.
ZTE also hopes to sell 5G networking gear to Japan’s leading carriers, NTT Docomo and KDDI, though that is expected to progress more slowly. On the 4G side, ZTE recently collaborated with NTT Docomo to develop a dual-screen foldable smartphone called M Z-01K, which was released last week in Japan — and late last year by AT&T as the Axon M.
U.S. officials have actively urged customers not to purchase ZTE or Huawei phones and have lobbied carriers to cut ties with the Chinese companies for security reasons. 5G networking gear is expected to be used for everything from phones to autonomous cars, factories, and city infrastructure, radically increasing security risks and consequences compared to its 4G predecessor.
As recently as last month, ZTE had hoped to…