China Mobile, the largest operator in the world, kicked-off a tender for the second phase of its 5G rollout, targeting expanding coverage to 28 provinces and autonomous regions, China Securities Journal reported.

The tender calls for the purchase of more than 232,000 base stations, with Guangdong province in the south alone accounting for 26,000.

China Mobile said it completed the first phase of the deployment covering 50 cities and is now targeting installing a total of 300,000 sites across the country by end-2020, the journal wrote.

Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson and Nokia were the winners in China Mobile’s first round of 5G contracts.

The expansion of its 5G networks, however, could be hindered by the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. In early February, China Mobile VP Qin Jian told local media it intended to accelerate deployments over the remainder of 2020, but noted the outbreak could impact plans.

All three mainland operators launched the next-generation mobile service at end-October 2019 in parts of 50 cities, after being granted a commercial 5G licence in June.

China Mobile ended January with 6.74 million 5G subs.

Rivals China Telecom and China Unicom, which agreed in September 2019 to team on building and maintaining 5G RANs across the country, are expected to launch their second tenders soon.