Coolpad Planning New US Deals Amid Washington-Beijing Tensions

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Coolpad is presently working on new partnerships with American wireless carriers and may start announcing them in the third quarter of the year, Mobile World Live reports, citing official confirmation from the company's North and South America SVP of sales, Charlier Parke. No names have yet been provided by the Shenzhen-based firm but the development itself is significant due to its historical context as it comes at a time of major trade-related tensions between Washington and Beijing, as well as a period of extreme stateside uncertainty for some much larger handset makers from China - Huawei and ZTE.

While Huawei was effectively blocked from striking a retail partnership with AT&T earlier this year, thus being denied a major entry point into the world's largest market for high-end smartphones due to spying concerns it denies to this date, ZTE's operations were entirely crippled by the Commerce Department last month after the federal regulator punished the company with a seven-year ban on purchasing any kind of American technologies due to repeated failure to comply with a 2017 settlement related to its admitted violations of U.S. trade sanctions imposed on Iran and North Korea. Even though President Trump himself signaled the ban will be replaced with a financial fine and other concessions in the coming weeks so that ZTE can resume day-to-day business, neither the Beijing-owned manufacturer nor Huawei are presently facing promising prospects in the U.S.

Coolpad, free of close ties to the Chinese government, appears to have had more luck with negotiating partnerships with U.S. wireless carriers, with Mr. Park saying American consumers can expect "quite a bit of activity" from the company in the second half of this year, as well as the first half of 2019. Coolpad already collaborates with T-Mobile US, claiming the Bellevue, Washington-based network operator is its largest enterprise customer. The company also has a working relationship with Sprint and AT&T, though it's presently unclear whether all three of them will be carrying its new products in the near future. Coolpad says it's seeking to compete in the U.S. with both mid-range and high-end smartphones, with Mr. Park stating the company is now adopting a "U.S.-first" strategy, both in terms of products and physical expansion. Coolpad is projecting it will sell four million devices in the U.S. over the course of this year and raise that figure by between 20- and 30-percent in 2019 as part of its strategy based on "realistic expectations," the executive said.

The firm may consider diversifying its high-end portfolio with additional models going forward, with its long-term business plan also including Internet of Things offerings and wearables such as smartwatches, according to Mr. Park. The executive claims Huawei and ZTE's issues with the U.S. governments haven't deterred the firm's own ambitions in the country and have actually accelerated them, maintaining Coolpad already laid out a "foundation of trust" in the U.S. and is fully compliant with all stateside laws, thus being an ideal partner for network operators seeking to address any gaps in their handset portfolios. After freeing itself from its indebted investor LeEco earlier this year, Coolpad went on to raise $300 million in funding for a variety of artificial intelligence-focused plans, having announced that move in January. All user data collected by the company is hosted in the U.S. which the firm already said is its main long-term focus points while confirming plans for new wearables equipped with Qualcomm's chips at Mobile World Congress in late February.

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