Nokia admits U.S. handset weaknesses, focuses on LTE

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) admitted it has a weak presence in the U.S. handset market, and vowed to"re-enter" the market, but this week's Nokia World event in London did not feature smartphones aimed at the U.S. market.

The company unveiled three new Symbian^3 smartphones at the confab, and also touted the N8, its flagship product, but admitted none of the phones is bound for U.S. carriers. Though Nokia leads the world in handset market share, most analyst estimates put its U.S. share in the low single-digits.

"We're not happy with our current situation in the U.S., and we're looking for ways to enhance our position in the U.S. market," Colin Giles, Nokia's senior vice president and head of global sales, said on a conference call Tuesday. "But we can't do everything at once. We need to focus on what we do well. And that will open up a couple of operators to us."

Nokia said it will not make CDMA versions of its new handsets--which could be sold through CDMA carriers Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S)--but will instead continue to focus on GSM phones for AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA. Nokia has had some success with AT&T and T-Mobile, including the Nuron at T-Mobile and AT&T last year with the Surge.

Instead, Nokia said it plans to focus on developing LTE devices. Verizon will launch LTE handsets by the middle of next year, and MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) plans to launch its first LTE handset from Samsung this fall. "What we'd like to do longer-term is develop an LTE roadmap and bring products with those operators in on the new generation of platforms," Giles said.

Interestingly, Nokia thinks its new, high-end MeeGo devices might represent a way to crack the U.S. market. Marko Ahtisaari, Nokia's senior vice president of design, told Engadget that the company will need to do "operating system-level innovation" to break through in the crowded U.S. smartphone market. He said MeeGo will allow the company to raise its profile with the U.S. tech media and handset enthusiasts, which could help the company in the longer term.

For more:
- see this CNet article
- see this Computerworld article
- see this PC Magazine article
- see this Engadget post

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