By GABEY GOHbytz@thestar.com.my
PETALING JAYA: The much-anticipated mass commercialisation of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in Malaysia will only begin early next year, according to ZTE Corporation, a telecommunications equipment manufacturer.
Eric Wang, managing director of ZTE Corp Malaysia, noted that with LTE trials recently concluded and operators now at the stage of negotiating the sharing of infrastructure, the rollout of LTE-enabled networks may take place in early 2013.
"It will take some time for a mass transition to LTE because other factors also have to be taken into consideration," said Wang.
LTE is the next standard for the wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals, which will increase the capacity and speed of wireless data networks.
Wang said that at the moment, LTE-enabled devices - such as USB dongles, terminals and smartphones - are only just beginning to be rolled out and remain more expensive than the current 3G (third-generation) enabled devices.
"Device support from vendors is also needed and I foresee mass adoption only happening in about three years time in Malaysia, at which point many users would probably not even remember 3G," he said.
The world's fifth-largest telecoms equipment maker, China-based ZTE also manufactures its own range of mobile devices - mostly aimed at the low to middle market tiers.
According to research firm Gartner, ZTE was ranked fourth in terms of handset shipments in the fourth quarter of last year. The company counts Australia and Japan as two of its biggest markets in the Asia Pacific region outside of China.
Since launching the Android-based ZTE Skate in November last year, it has sold 20,000 units in this country.
Wang admits that the brand has yet to make a significant impact in this country, citing differences in consumer culture in comparison to the China market.
"In China, most consumers don't care about the brand, the focus is on price and functions, and the consumers are easier to sell to.
"Here, the consumers are very brand-conscious and it (branding) plays a big part in purchase decisions," he said.
So ZTE intends to focus on raising awareness of its brand this year via its channel partners, and increasing bundled-package offerings with local operators for its upcoming smartphone models.
The company's marketing and distribution partner locally is Dancom Group, in addition to partnerships with local operators DiGi Telecommunications, U Mobile, Packet One Networks and Telekom Malaysia.
"We believe that there is a big market for affordable smartphones, where consumers can enjoy the benefits without having to pay more, and we are ready to meet that demand," said Wang.