Many consumers - if they're familiar with the company at all - will know ZTE as a manufacturer of mobile handsets, smartwatches, and maybe even 4G dongles and hotspots sold by some carriers around the world. But the Chinese firm is also one of the world's biggest suppliers of the equipment that carriers use to build and manage their vast network infrastructures, and it's evidently keen to strengthen that part of its business further.
4G networks are still slowly making their way to many parts of the globe, but the mobile industry is already preparing for the deployment of 5G. ZTE has big ambitions when it comes to building next-gen mobile networks - indeed, at this year's Mobile World Congress, the company's show stands were splashed with its tagline, 'leading 5G innovations'.
ZTE is putting its money where its mouth is on that front, announcing today that it is doubling its investment into research and development (R&D) of 5G infrastructure and services, supporting China's ambitions to build the world's largest 5G network.
ZTE already employs around 3,000 people in its 5G R&D centers, and while it's not yet clear if the company plans to increase the size of that workforce, it is boosting its research spending considerably. ZTE said that it will invest 2 billion yuan (almost $300 million) every year on 5G R&D, starting this year. It added that it could increase its spending further as it gets closer to China's planned 5G deployment in 2020.
As Reuters noted, a recent research paper from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology predicted that the country's national capital spending on 5G is expected to reach 1.65 trillion yuan (roughly $236 billion, at current exchange rates) by 2025. State-owned telco China Mobile began the nation's first 5G field trials last week.
The draft specifications for the 5G standard were published in February by the International Telecommunication Union, but have not yet been finalized.