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Huawei Plans U.K. Smartphone Debut Taking On Android Makers

Huawei Plans U.K. Smartphone
A Huawei employee demonstrates a mobile phone. Huawei’s push into the U.K., following its first mobile network deal in the country in May, marks the company’s biggest step into devices in western Europe. Photographer: Forbes Conrad/Bloomberg

Huawei Technologies Co. plans to sell its first own-branded mobile phone in the U.K., taking on manufacturers using Google Inc.’s Android software in one of Europe’s most competitive handset markets.

Having initially focused on making handsets for carriers, China’s largest phone-equipment supplier will introduce the Blaze device as early as next month. Huawei is targeting a market share of 4 percent to 5 percent within 12 months, said Mark Mitchinson, the company’s U.K. executive vice president.

“We’re trying to establish the brand, almost from scratch,” Mitchinson, who previously worked for Samsung Electronics Co. and Nokia Oyj, said in an interview in London. Huawei will compete with “anyone involved in Android.”

Huawei’s push into the U.K., following its first mobile network deal in the country in May, marks the company’s biggest step into devices in western Europe. Sales outside of China accounted for 65 percent of Shenzhen, China-based Huawei’s revenue last year. Sales abroad grew three times faster than in its home market.

Huawei, benefitting from the rising popularity of Android, will compete with other manufacturers who use the software. LG Electronics Inc. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, the two smallest major brands in the U.K., both use the system, the best-selling smartphone platform in the second quarter after a fourfold increase in global sales, Gartner said yesterday.

Investing ‘Heavily’

“We are seeing other players that unfortunately will continue to be challenged and Sony Ericsson is one of those,” said Roberta Cozza, a U.K.-based analyst at Gartner Inc. Huawei has about 1 percent share of the U.K. device market and that may rise to 3 percent in a year, she estimates.

Huawei will need to invest “very heavily” to compete with HTC Corp., Asia’s second-largest phone maker, which also initially suffered from lack of brand awareness, she said. “The problem they have is the brand. It’s a limitation for them.”

The Blaze handset will likely compete with lower-priced smartphones that sell for as little as 100 pounds ($162), Cozza said. Huawei also plans to sell a tablet computer called the MediaPad and another handset, Vision, in the U.K., where more than one in four adults already has a smartphone, which can play video clips and download corporate e-mail.

Huawei will seek the support of operators including Vodafone Group Plc, Telefonica SA’s O2 and Everything Everywhere, the U.K. joint venture between France Telecom SA and Deutsche Telkom AG, Mitchinson said.

Huawei aims to boost its handset sales to $20 billion in five years, from $6 billion this year, the company said in April. Huawei reported revenue of about $29 billion last year.

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