Alcatel-branded handsets to debut at CTIA
A familiar name with a not-so-familiar product will be debuting at CTIA Wireless 2007 this month. Chinese handset manufacturer TCL will be bringing the Alcatel brand to the U.S. handset market, with several new phone launches planned for the annual trade show in Orlando, Fla.
TCL entered into a joint venture with Alcatel in 2004 to make GSM handsets under the Alcatel name after the French vendor decided to exit the highly competitive business. Alcatel later sold its stake in the JV to TCL, giving it the right to use the Alcatel brand to market its phones. Alcatel Mobile Handsets has sold GSM devices in Europe, Asia and Latin America, but so far an Alcatel-branded phone has never been sold in the U.S.—either from Alcatel itself or the JV.
Alcatel Mobile officials said they would debut multiple handsets at CTIA. Instead of focusing on high-end features, smart phones or basic entry-level devices, Alcatel Mobile appears to be targeting the fashion end of the handset spectrum, emphasizing style, simplicity and “fun” over specific features.
Alcatel Mobile/TCL is the latest Chinese vendor trying to break into the U.S. market with handsets. Both ZTE and Huawei have been trying to sell CDMA and GSM handsets into North America, but so far have had little public success, except for a PC card deal ZTE struck in Canada. That may change at CTIA, though. RCR reported that ZTE will be announcing its first U.S. CDMA handsets in Orlando, and both vendors have made significant strides in Europe, selling GSM phones and budget 3G phones to major carriers like Vodafone and Telefonica.
Breaking the brand barrier in the U.S. may be the companies’ most difficult task. While Alcatel-Lucent is a globally known infrastructure, it has no consumer presence in the U.S. And ZTE and Huawei are virtually unknown outside of the telecom industry in North America.
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