ZTE: U.S. smartphone launch remains on horizon

LAS VEGAS--Chinese handset and infrastructure vendor ZTE said it expects to sell phones through major U.S. operators in the second half of the year. However, despite protracted efforts on the smartphone front globally, ZTE said it will be some time before it launches a smartphone with a U.S. carrier.

"We need to establish a beachhead, if you will, with our products," Raymond Kim, general manager of sales for ZTE USA, told FierceWireless here at the CTIA Wireless 2010 conference. Kim said the company needs to first develop a relationship with U.S. carriers before it can begin selling smartphones. He declined say when ZTE will launch a smartphone in the U.S. market. The company recently unveiled a series of phones based on Google's Android platform, presumably initially intended for international markets.

In November, Dale Ying, ZTE's managing director of handset business marketing, told Dow Jones Newswires the company was in talks with Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, France Telecom Orange and T-Mobile International about smartphones. As for regular handsets and data cards, he said the company was in talks--and conducting tests--with all four of the Tier 1 operators in the United States: AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and Verizon.

Kim said ZTE is pouring effort into LTE data devices. Last year, Verizon launched a global USB modem made by ZTE. Kim said ZTE hopes to expand its relationship with Verizon into LTE (Verizon plans to launch the network technology this year) but said LTE is limited right now because of a lack of LTE chipsets.

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