leap_welcomec.jpgHot on the heels of last week's landmark deal with Vodafone in Spain, Huawei has signed another watershed contract with a western telco, this time in the US.

Leap Wireless will use Huawei's 3G technology to upgrade its Cricket wireless network, which serves 1.8m customers in 21 US states and is based on CDMA technology.

Now, Leap is hardly in the same league as major US service providers like Verizon Wireless or Cingular Wireless. Nevertheless, this is the most significant contract that Huawei has signed in the US, even though it is limited to just three of the cities that Leap serves — Spokane, Boise and Reno.

If Leap is satisfied and opts to award follow-on deals to Huawei, then I predict its only a matter of time before one of the big “Tier 1” US service providers also decides to take a leap — and with much more substantial contracts. Then, Huawei will have earned its place at the top table of leading suppliers.

Even if you're not in the telecom industry, the rapid rise of Chinese equipment vendors Huawei and ZTE in a sector traditionally dominated by western manufacturers is a fascinating example of just how China is changing the economic world order. See our earlier post for more on Huawei.

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