Huawei-branded Mobile Phones to Sell in India Market

Huawei Technologies said on Thursday that it is entering the Indian market with phones that will be sold through retail channels under its brand.

The company has until now sold its devices, like mobile phones and wireless data cards for laptops, through local service providers. Operators like Tata Teleservices, Bharti Airtel, and Reliance Communications buy the devices from Huawei, and put their own brand on them, a spokesman for the company said on Thursday.

Huawei, a Chinese maker of telecommunications equipment, said that purchases of its equipment by service providers had been blocked from February, after new security regulations were imposed on service providers in December by the Indian government. The Indian government has denied that there is a ban on Chinese vendors. The country has a border dispute with China.

Sales of Huawei's mobile phones to service providers have however not been blocked, the company spokesman said.

Huawei is targeting the smart phone market with 20 models priced at between 7,000 Indian rupees (US$150) and 12,000 rupees, the spokesman said. All the phones are built around chipsets from Qualcomm, and 12 of these phones run the open source Android operating system. The rest of the phones run the Brew MP operating system from Qualcomm, according to the spokesman.

The phones will be available through retail channels from August 1.

Huawei said it sold about 5 million devices, including mobile phones and wireless laptop data cards, in India last year. The company has sold about 25 million [m] of these devices so far in India through operators, with handsets accounting for 60 percent of units sold.

It aims to sell about one million smart phones in its own brand in the first year, the spokesman said.

Nokia had a 54.1 percent share of the 102 million mobile handsets sold in India in 2009, according to research firm IDC India. But lower cost devices from Indian and Chinese brands are fast gaining share in the market, according to analysts.

Huawei hopes to boost its sales by offering full-featured devices at a low price, the Huawei spokesman said.

Huawei's equipment business may also look up, after the Indian government announced on Wednesday new and tougher security conditions on service providers and their equipment suppliers. These conditions include making the software code and hardware design of equipment available for inspection by the government.

Some equipment makers, including Huawei, may agree to these conditions to be able to address India's growing equipment market, analysts said. Besides expanding their existing networks, operators are planning to roll out 3G services from the fourth quarter of this year.

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