Huawei, which released its Ascend P6 smartphone, said to be the “world’s slimmest phone” in Lagos, the commercial capital of Africa’s biggest phone market, on Sept. 6, forecasts it will sell 200,000 smartphones in the country by year-end, Tony Liang, managing director of the company’s consumer business group for West Africa, said in a Sept. 10 interview in the city. That’s twice the number it sold last year.
“With Nigeria developing economically, smartphone use will boom over the next five years,” he said. More than 90 percent of the phones used in the country now are “feature phones,” used only for voice calls and text messages, leaving room for smartphone growth, he said.
The Shenzhen-based company seeks to become one of the top three smartphone vendors globally by 2018. Nigeria had 117 million mobile-phone subscribers as of June 2013, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, for a population of more than 160 million. With many subscribers acquiring more than one line, the numbers will grow to more than 200 million subscriptions in 2017, London-based research company Informa Telecoms & Media estimates.
While Huawei is relatively a late entrant in the Nigerian smartphone market, it has the advantage of being a network provider to most phone companies, said Yolanda Zhang, marketing director of the consumer business in West Africa.
“We already partner with them for their networks,” Zhang said. “That makes it easier for us than for the others to partner with them” for the smartphone segment as well, she said.
Its competitors include Ontario, Canada-based BlackBerry Ltd, which remains a popular brand in Nigeria, Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), Taiwan’s HTC Corp. (2498), Hong Kong’s Tecno Telecom Ltd., which produces exclusively for Africa, as well as Samsung Electrics Co. and Apple Inc.
MTN Group Ltd. (MTN)’s Nigerian unit, Nigeria’s Globacom Ltd., New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel and Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Telecommunications Corp. (ETISALAT), known as Etisalat, all offer subsidized or free smartphones and data plans.
Huawei is helping deploy a fiber backbone to connect government departments in Abuja by mid-2014 in collaboration with Nigerian company Galaxy Backbone and is in talks to extend it across the country to enable cheaper data services, said Kevin Li, the public relations manager for West Africa.
Smartphone shipments are expected to reach one billion globally this year and their growth could outpace that of mobile data, according to Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2013 report.
The target of 200,000 phones set by Huawei for Nigeria this year is small for a market estimated to have five million smartphones, said Yomi Adegboye, managing editor of mobility.ng, a Nigerian online magazine on mobile technology. “Right now Huawei is not very visible on the smartphone front,” he said.
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