"The actual launch date depends on the network service provider, which in this case is Airtel. But we are ready with our phone ( Ascend P1 LTE). If operator is ready, we can launch the phone by the end of this year," said Victor Shanxin, president for Huawei devices in India. He did reveal any expected price that consumers would have to pay for the phone.
Airtel had launched 4G, also called Long Term Evaluation (LTE), in Kolkata and Bangalore earlier this year. But the service is only available through USB dongles and doesn't work with any phone yet. In May this year, Airtel had appointed Huawei to plan, design, supply and deploy its LTE network in Karnataka.
Talking to TOI, Shanxin said the company had big plans for India. "Until now we were doing most of our business through tie-ups with operators. But now we plan to focus on the open market," said Shanxin. "By the end of the next year we hope to have at least 5% market share in India, with smartphones making up for the majority of our sale."
Shanxin said that Huawei was investing in its infrastructure in India. "We have a local R&D center where we develop services that are relevant locally. For example on our phones we offer cloud services that are relevant to Indian users. We are also quietly building a supply network before we decide to market ourselves better so that when people see our devices in advertisements and want to buy them, they can do so easily," he said.
Huawei, which is primarily known for making telecom equipment and communication gear, in the recent years has tried to diversify its business. It has used Android operating software to enter smartphone market and with its manufacturing prowess has managed to become of the top smartphone makers in the world. According to Gartner, Huawei sold more phones in 2011 compared to companies like Motorola and Sony Ericsson.
Shanxin, however, added that Huawei would not enter into price war with local Indian players like Micromax and Karbonn Mobiles.
He said that Indian phone makers cut too many corners in a bid to lower the prices. "Yes, we will sell affordable products. But we want to focus on quality. We want people to use Huawei devices and then do business with us again. If we cannot make a good tablet for Rs 10,000 we will not make it. Low prices are secondary for us," he said.
Shanxin also criticized local phone makers for not doing their own R&D. He said that Indian phone market was similar to that of China and eventually customers would select quality over low prices. "In the beginning, companies in China too sold sub-standard devices at low price but now people are willing to pay a little extra for better user experience," he said. "The same would happen in India."