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Huawei deal signals network war

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An announcement last night that Vodacom would be the first network to offer the new Huawei flagship smartphone comes days after Nokia and MTN struck a similar deal.

Vodacom have responded to Tuesday’s announcement that MTN would have initial exclusivity on Nokia’s flagship Lumia 900 smartphone by revealing its own exclusive deal for a flagship device.

Vodacom customers will be the first to get their hands on Huawei’s new flagship dual-core Ascend P1 smartphone. The handset will be available from 07 July 2012 – and South Africa is the first country outside China to see the long-anticipated P1 launched. The device was first announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Due to the long lag between announcement and launch, however, there is some concern that the device would already have fallen behind recent releases like the Lumia 900, Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X.

Weighing heavily in its favour, however, is its pricing: R5499, compared to an average of R7999 for the rival devices. On contract, it will cost R279, including 205MB data per month, compared to R369 for the other devices. The Lumia only includes 75MB of data per month.

‚It’s always exciting for us when our customers get to be the first to enjoy the latest smartphone technology. With the Huawei Ascend P1, our customers can expect an innovative smartphone which provides a home theatre experience in the palm of their hands,‚ said Zunaid Dinath, Vodacom’s Managing Executive of Sales, at the launch.

The Huawei Ascend P1 features a dual-core chip 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4460 Cortext-A9 processor. It measures 7.69mm thin and 64.8 mm long and provides a very comfortable grip. It has a 4.3-inch super AMOLED 960 x 540 touch screen with Corning Gorilla Glass, an 8-megapixel BSI rear-facing camera and Dolby Mobile 3.0 + 5.1 surround sound technology.

‚The Ascend P1 smartphone will definitely offer our customers value for money. Its unique elegant design and exceptional performance places it as one of the best smartphones available in its price range,‚ said Dinath.

The Vodacom deal is a coup for Huawei, which has struggled to make inroads into the cellphone market in South Africa despite being dominant in the supply of 3G modems. Some of its models have made a major impact in other markets in Africa, due to attractive packages from network partners.

The Huawei U8150 Ideos phone, known in Kenya as the Google phone, completely supplanted Nokia as the dominant smartphone brand in that country when it was launched at the beginning of 2011. An Android touchscreen phone, it was bundled with 600MB of data and the equivalent of $10 airtime, for a prepaid price of $85. However, when it was sold in South Africa, it was available only on contract, and disappeared without a trace.

The P1 is expected to become Huawei’s first high-profile phone in the South African market. At the same time, the exclusivity negotiated with Vodacom signals a new network war, coming so hard on the heels of Nokia striking a similar deal with MTN for its Lumia 900 phone. It can now be expected that the networks will compete fiercely in future to be the first to launch new devices.

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