Forget about Nokia, Samsung and Apple - the logo on your next mobile handset could soon be the same as the one on your phone bill. Etisalat signed a deal today with the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE that will see it manufacture mobile phones on contract for the UAE national operator. The phones will be branded by Etisalat and sold in the emirates. Such contract manufacturing deals are common in foreign markets, where network operators often bundle a locked and branded handset with a subscription. But in the UAE, where handsets are typically sold unlocked and independent of the networks, it is a new move.
ZTE is the world's sixth-largest handset maker, with its devices rebranded and sold by network operators such as Vodafone from the UK, Spain's Telefonica and Australia's Telstra. The agreement means Etisalat-branded phones will be sold across the company's 17-country international network, which has more than 74 million subscribers. It is not Etisalat's first deal with a major Chinese telecommunications business. In August, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei, another producer of telecommunications equipment based in Shenzhen.
Huawei is working with Etisalat on a national optic fibre communications network, and also manufactures the Etisalat-branded wireless mobile broadband modems that are sold in the company's national outlets. Yesterday was a busy day for Etisalat at the Gitex technology conference. The company also announced a "triple play" service, bundling internet, television and land line into a single package delivered over the company's network. When the new fibre optic system is complete, the service will be capable of delivering high-definition television channels and internet access at speeds 10 times faster than available today.