Huawei, ZTE, and Ericsson are financing China's 5G build by leasing/renting radios to China Mobile. Edison Lee of Jeffries estimates the carrier is paying about US$6,500.year instead of buying the units at $35,000. Radio prices in the US and Europe can be twice the China price.
Chinese carriers intend to deploy over a million radios in the next two years, which could mean $25,000,000,000 in off-balance-sheet financing. The carriers are honouring the government mandate to accelerate 5G while also claiming to hold capex flat. Wang Xiaochu, chairman and CEO of China Unicom, predicted that “the capital expenditure in the whole year will not exceed RMB 58 billion, and the 5G capital expenditure for this year will remain unchanged at RMB 8 billion."
Under government pressure to bring down prices, China Mobile saw an actual decline in sales in the last quarter. China Unicom saw a decline in mobile revenues.
ZTE has a $10,000,000,000 line of credit with government-owned banks. Huawei has over $30B cash on hand and minimal debt and can also cover the cost.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has cut back in China, refusing to give the carriers what they demanded.