ZTE South Africa - Pioneering global success with local wisdom

ZTE South Africa’s operations are adding powerful impetus to its vision of driving the global digital economy in Africa.

ZTE South Africa’s operations are adding powerful impetus to its vision of driving the global digital economy in Africa.

Published Nov 23, 2022


ZTE Corporation has powered its way to becoming one of the world’s leading providers of integrated communications and information solutions, gaining most of its market share in South Africa in 2010. ZTE Corporation invested RMB 16.11 billion in R&D, which accounts for 17.4% of the revenue in the first nine months of 2022. By the end of June 2022, ZTE filed applications for more than 85 000 patents, with over 43 000 granted.

Add to that its inroads in global 5G technology research and standard development, and it becomes clear that ZTE South Africa is well on its way to realising its vision of pioneering global success with local wisdom in this region.

What is ZTE’s secret to its success? “We cover all business segments related to telecoms, serving mid to low LSM areas as our priority, as the demand in those areas has to match with the cost effectiveness of the products,” says ZTE South Africa CEO Jerry Zhou. “We place special focus on product innovations that are flexible and tailor-made to match the economic conditions of cities, municipalities, provinces and South Africa at large.”

In other words, as a world-class provider of integrated communications and information solutions, providing innovative technology and product solutions for global telecom operators, GME customers and consumers, ZTE innovates heavily at the low end of the market to offer products that are affordable and technologically savvy. This drive for competitive pricing gained ground in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic which Zhou says has “challenged many economies to become more cost effective”.

It all started in 1985 when ZTE Corporation was established. Zhou says the company’s leadership immediately went on a globalisation drive, driven by its philosophy of “global success with local wisdom”.

“Communication infrastructures were predicted to grow and evolve in overseas markets. Fore-sighting the demand from the telecom operators worldwide, ZTE started exploring business opportunities in overseas markets with a phased approach.”

One of its priorities was to establish the company as an African-focused trailblazer of telecommunication solutions. In 2006, ZTE South Africa Ltd was established as a subsidiary of ZTE Corporation. “South Africa, being a country with good infrastructure as compared to other regions, became an obvious choice to be one of our main hubs in the continent,” elaborates Zhou.

After decades of dedicated investment in the telecom market of South Africa, ZTE South Africa set out to develop its core infrastructure along with far-reaching co-operation agreements with major South African communication operators to modernize 2G/3G RAN infrastructure. ZTE’s debut telecom business co-operation in the KwaZulu-Natal region was later extended into a 4G RAN modernisation project later in 2017.

“Our partnership with the operators in general is quite multi-dimensional,” says Zhou. “In 2013/2014, the RAN products we offer were selected for a swap, where we performed Radio replacement of a European vendor in the Western Cape region. Now we are one of their partners in both 5G RAN infrastructure deployments and 5G CPEs. There are other areas like IOT, GPON, Devices and Lithium ion batteries where we have extended our hand of support to the market in SA.”

Today, ZTE Corporation is listed in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The business’s global footprint covers more than 160 countries and regions, serving more than a quarter of the world's population.

In South Africa, the company can boast thousands of radio base stations. Zhou says the company has built the capacity to serve tens of millions of South Africans with a premium communications experience. “One after the other, we have successfully managed to enter into agreements which would never have been possible without establishing an excellent reputation among operators - be it telecom operators or SMEs in the government and private enterprise sector,” says Zhou.

After decades of investment in South Africa’s telecoms market, ZTE aims to be a leading provider of telecommunication services on the continent.

The net result of cutting-edge technology - complete end-to-end product lines and integrated solutions in the telecommunications industry bolstered by a network of wireless, wireline services, devices and professional telecommunications services and constantly expanding R&D financing - is a unique selling point of ZTE. “With all these innovations, and also by remaining completely compliant with international bodies from a business compliance point of view, our delivery of products has become much faster and prices much cheaper,” says Zhou.

Besides the business of making a profit, the company actively supports sustainable development with its rollout of affordable services and its investment in local job creation, economic empowerment projects and community projects focusing on skills development and community upliftment. “We have been developing local companies on a model that promotes and qualifies them to be our registered suppliers,” says Zhou. “More than 70% of them are small business enterprises. From a technical and services point of view, we not only offer partnerships that enhance their business opportunities, but also provide specific training for their individual development and growth in the local market.”

ZTE has put in a sterling performance with the rollout of ZTE RAN products that have generated significant improvements in the overall quality of the lives of South Africans. “Better telecom infrastructure and effectively connected subscribers and service providers like emergency personnel, mean reduced periods to relay vital information from one party to the other - which can be lifesaving,” says Zhou. “All this has resulted in ZTE generating direct and indirect jobs in large numbers on a regular basis.”

Each year, ZTE directly and indirectly creates 200 to 300 jobs in South Africa. “Employee growth is pivotal,” says Zhou. “We actively provide skill development opportunities for those who are already employed with us, and training opportunities for those who are not.”

During the last four years, Zhou says ZTE has contributed more than R10 million and equipment to black-owned Qualifying Small Enterprises (QSE), helping them achieve the specific objectives of building sustainable businesses and achieving financial and operational independence. To this end, the company increased the local QSE workforce, which indirectly created more jobs. An additional R4mn was contributed to disadvantaged students who have had financial difficulties finishing their studies at university.

“Company resources are one thing, but the real deal begins when a company remains true to the values of different cultures and societies,” says Zhou. “There is life beyond making profits. Business ethics, honesty and dedication are some of the areas our CSR centres on.”

Overall, Zhou is confident that the company will continue to perform soundly against its set objectives of innovating and rolling out reliable, cost-effective and game-changing services. ZTE will continue to explore further opportunities in South Africa and the African continent in line with its vision to be a leading provider of telecommunication services on the continent

ZTE Corporation at a glance

ZTE Corporation is a global leader in telecommunications and information technology. Founded in 1985 and listed on both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges, the company has been committed to providing innovative technologies and integrated solutions for global operators, public sector and enterprise customers, and consumers from over 160 countries across the globe. Serving more than a quarter of the global population, the company is dedicated to enabling connectivity and trust everywhere for a better future.

ZTE believes in technology innovation as a core value of the company, investing more than 10% of annual revenue in its R&D. The company has established 11 state-of-art R&D centres in China. By the end of June 2022, ZTE has filed applications for more than 85 000 patents, with over 43 000 granted. At the same time, ZTE is a major participant and contributor in global 5G technology research and standard development.

ZTE adheres to the sustainable development concept and achieves harmonious coexistence of society, environment and stakeholders. ZTE uses communication technologies to help people in different areas enjoy equal freedom of communication. ZTE fulfils the concept of "innovation, integration and green" throughout the entire product lifecycle, and the whole process of R&D, production, logistics, and customer services. ZTE makes unremitting efforts to achieve global energy consumption reduction and carbon emission reduction.