ZTE to release own branded handsets to UK this year -

ZTE is a big player in mobile handsets, and an underestimated one, but you don't hear much about the Chinese company's efforts over on European shores. That's because handsets tend to be released co-branded with other network providers - for example the F930 3G which launched just last week.

However, we reckon ZTE is gearing up for a huge European invasion. It very recently launched its own branded handsets to the French mobile market, and that's something ZTE once said it would never, ever do.

But these manufacturers can't help themselves. A little birdie close to the company tells us that we can expect a ZTE invasion in the UK later this year.

We tried talking to a few top dogs at ZTE including Wu Sa, director of mobile device operations with ZTE UK, and "Shank" Ni Haiyang, the guy at the heart of ZTE's English speaking PR, but neither have confirmed or denied anything to us yet. It's a tight-lipped company, though - so we're not surprised.

There is space in the UK, and Europe, for ZTE. The ZTE Cute and the ZTE Link, launched in France in May, are both nifty little handsets that marked ZTE's own brand for the first time in the European market. 

Back then a ZTE spokesperson told us to "watch this space" for news on UK brand launches.

Our source told us that there will be something in "the not too distant future" for the UK, and told us we can expect a branded handset later this year. We wouldn't be surprised if it plants the seeds this year before launching a full invasion in line for 2011.