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Pantech Hires New Execs, Readies to Storm AT&T

Wireless handset maker Pantech is bolstering the senior ranks of its U.S. division to help it win more business from AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. mobile phone service provider. South Korea-based Pantech named David Ronis as its chief marketing officer, a newly created position, the company plans to announce on March 19. Pantech also said that Charles Park became CEO of its U.S. operations in December.

Park, who replaced former CEO JB (Jung Bong) Chun, previously worked as Pantech?? vice chief officer of overseas sales and marketing, where he managed all international product sales and marketing for the company. Before then, he was the head of Pantech?? R&D and oversaw the development of key handsets. Prior to joining Pantech, Ronis was a sales executive at LG Electronics MobileComm and Cingular Wireless (now AT&T), so he has connections that could help get more Pantech products into the carrier?? stores.

Pantech aims to increase the number of handsets it makes for AT&T to 15% of total volume the carrier sells within three years. At the end of 2009, Pantech, which has been working to make inroads into the U.S. market for several years, produced only 5% percent of cell phones sold by AT&T, according to the handset maker.

Pantech wants to step up pressure on makers Samsung and LG in the U.S. ??e are now ready to move into the upper echelon of strategic partners [at AT&T],?Ronis says. Pantech will introduce six new handsets at AT&T this year, double last year’s number, he says. He hopes to sell eight to 10 handsets to AT&T annually within three years.

To get there, Pantech has refocused on making Qwerty keyboard-based, quick-messaging devices, which account for some 65% of AT&T’s sales. Later in 2010, Pantech will introduce its first touch-screen phone, the Pantech Pursuit. It will have a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, and come with a number of nifty features. For example, you can program it to get to the right application with a shake: One shake of the phone might open up your messaging application. Two shakes might open up your social-networking app. It’s likely to sell for $49 to$79 from AT&T, Ronis says. “Over the next couple of years, we are going to break into other parts of [AT&T’s] portfolio,” he says.

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