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ZTE Planning to Sell Mozilla-Powered Phone in Europe

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Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- ZTE Corp. is working with a European wireless carrier to introduce a smartphone based on software built by Mozilla Corp. this year, said Cheng Lixin, chief executive officer of ZTE’s U.S. unit.

China’s second-biggest maker of phone equipment may also offer a device based on Mozilla’s Firefox mobile operating system in the U.S. this year, Cheng said in an interview at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Mozilla is better known for its Firefox Web browser.

ZTE is seeking partnerships to offer devices with the new operating system to reduce its reliance on Google Inc.’s Android, which dominates the smartphone market with a 75 percent share of shipments, according to IDC. ZTE is expanding in mobile devices and cloud computing, where sales growth is faster than its traditional equipment business.

“We closely monitor the ecosystem and how it evolves,” Cheng said. “If that is ready and if consumer studies support that data, then we may launch one in U.S. also this year.”

Deutsche Telekom AG, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Telefonica SA have been developing an open mobile operating system powered by Mozilla to build out a range of cheaper smartphones and take on Android. Cheng didn’t specify a European carrier partner.

Jay Sullivan, vice president of products at Mozilla, said the company is working with mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc., TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd. and ZTE on devices.

“Interest and momentum continues to grow in Firefox OS,” Sullivan wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Tomson Li Dongsheng, chairman of TCL, confirmed in an interview at CES that his company is working on a Mozilla-based phone.

Mozilla and ZTE could capture 1 percent of the mobile market in 2013, according to a recent Strategy Analytics report.

Samsung Electronics Co., the largest seller of mobile phones, is also planning to start selling phones with a new, rival operating system, called Tizen, to reduce its reliance on Android.

To contact the reporters on this story: Olga Kharif in Portland at okharif@bloomberg.net; Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net