Huawei plans CDMA/LTE phones for U.S. market in 2012

LAS VEGAS--Huawei intends to release LTE devices in the U.S. market this year, including smartphones, and signaled it is looking to branch out beyond its traditional carrier allies.

In an interview with FierceWireless, James Jiang, executive vice president of product marketing for Huawei Device USA, said that the company plans to release LTE devices in the U.S. later this year, including CDMA/LTE devices, which could make Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) potential targets. He did not provide specific timetables for when the devices would be released or with which carriers Huawei will work. However, Jiang said the company is talking with all of the Tier 1 carriers. "We have to have more exposure with the Tier 1 operators," for Huawei to grow its device business.

So far, Huawei has found its greatest success with flat-rate players Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) and MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS), but the company has also scored device deals with AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA. In December Sprint launched a $20 Huawei-made Android smartphone, the Express, though the device did not carry Huawei's brand. One indication of a Huawei device that might be coming soon was an FCC filing for an LTE handset dubbed the M920 for MetroPCS, according to Phonescoop.

Jiang acknowledged that so far Huawei has been a niche value player in the U.S. handset market, but he said that the company's new flagship Ascends P1 S device is a "statement" to the U.S. market that Huawei is ready to compete at the high end of the market with more established players like HTC, LG and Samsung. However, he said that although Huawei will target more high-end users it still intends to compete on value.

Huawei's brand is not well-known in the U.S., Jiang said, and noted that the company's inability to secure network infrastructure contracts with Tier 1 carriers is a "hurdle" to the company's growth in the market. Still, he said that the company is working with advertising and marketing firms and will start a major marketing push in early May. He said the company's global tagline, "let's simply share," may be customized for the U.S. market. One of Huawei's major goals, Jiang said, is to "make a name for ourselves" by getting devices into the market with Huawei's branding.

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