ZTE hopes Verizon launch will springboard its U.S ambitions

ZTE is wagering that its budding relationship with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will lead to greater U.S. market penetration next year. The Chinese handset and equipment vendor is teaming up with the nation's No. 1 carrier on a low-end phone, the Salute, but has bigger plans in store.

ZTE Salute verizon wirelessZTE, which said last year it was talking with Verizon and other carriers on smartphones, is trying to crack the U.S. market, and Verizon is its first Tier-1 carrier partner. Regional carrier MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS) has been selling ZTE phones, and ZTE already provides a global 3G modem for Verizon.

"It's a very good start," Jeff Ji, executive vice president for ZTE's U.S. unit, told Bloomberg in an interview. "We are actively working with all Tier 1 operators in the U.S," which he said includes Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA.

The Salute is a basic slider phone with a 1.3-megapixel camera and a 2.4-inch display. Verizon is selling it for $20 after a $50 mail-in rebate and two-year contract.

ZTE plans to introduce its first U.S. smartphone next year, Ji said, and will also supply 4G data cards. The company was the world's eighth largest branded handset vendor in the second quarter, according to ABI Research.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Bloomberg article

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