Borje Ekholm, Ericsson CEO, says there’s ‘no one ahead of us’ on 5G — not even Huawei. Huawei’s $17B research budget makes them formidable, but the oft-heard claim that no one comes close is exaggerated. Huawei makes excellent equipment, but they are not the only one.

There’s no simple way to say who’s ahead in a technology with literally a thousand different aspects. Huawei and ZTE delivered Massive MIMO in 2016, two years ahead of the Westerners. But Ericsson is first with field demonstrations of “dynamic spectrum sharing,” which makes 5G in lower frequencies more efficient.

We have field results from Chinese and Korean carriers using both Huawei and Ericsson equipment. There’s no evidence either is ahead.

Another myth is that Huawei’s prices are always lower. Ericsson has matched and beaten Huawei’s prices for selected contracts. Huawei leaders say they no longer need to be the cheapest and they would rather sell on quality and features.

Ren Zhengfei makes the interesting point that the success of rivals is important to Huawei. He believes the competition drives Huaei to work even harder to excel. He’s also aware of the political consequences of leaving Europe without a champion.