Xiaomi will make its handsets available in a number of European markets in the coming months, but speculation continues to mount over a potential entry into the US market

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi is set to make its UK debut, with mobile network operator Three agreeing to offer the company’s smartphones on its networks. 

The move is part of a wider-reaching agreement between Xiaomi and Three’s parent company, CK Hutchison, to rollout Xiaomi’s handsets across a number of European markets, including Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the UK. Xiaomi made its European debut in November 2017 when it made its handsets available in Spain. 

“We are excited by this agreement with Xiaomi.  With CK Hutchison’s global retail and telecom footprint, Xiaomi will have access to hundreds of millions of customers instantly,” said Canning Fok, CK Hutchison Group Co-Managing Director.  

“Xiaomi has high quality, well-designed products at accessible prices.  We expect them to be well received by both our telecom customers and our general retail customers.  This is a win-win situation for both companies.”

Xiaomi has established a reputation for producing high quality smartphones at ultra-low prices. In doing so, it has established itself as a key player in a number of markets across Asia and Africa. The firm is the biggest supplier of handsets in India and has recently pledged to set up 3 new manufacturing plants on the sub-continent to meet spiralling demand. 

It’s collaboration with Three in the UK will provide Xiaomi with a solid base from which to launch its handsets, and will also provide traction for Three, as the UK’s fourth biggest operator looks to build on its 10 million customers.  

“We have been watching Xiaomi’s success from afar and are impressed with the huge range of connected devices that they currently offer,” Three UK’s chief digital officer, Tom Malleschitz, told members of the press. 

Xiaomi has recently revealed that it hopes to raise as much as $10 billion for its international expansion efforts when it applies to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in the coming months. 


All eyes on the US 

A number of sources have suggested that Xiaomi’s expansion into Europe, coupled with its imminent IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, could be a precursor for plans to expand into the US market. As recently as February 2018, Xiaomi’s head of international business, Wang Xiang told CNBC news that the company was keeping a close eye on developments in the US market.  

"We always look seriously at the US market. The US market is very important to us but we are very, very carefully building our resources to serve the US consumer," he said. 

"We have lot of fans in US. They keep asking me when do you come to US? I always tell them, we’ll be there. Also we are very confident… they will love us," he added. 

If Xiaomi is considering a possible expansion into the US market, it will need to prepare itself for a veritable torrent of vetting and inspection from the US authorities. Following a high profile banning order issued by the US to ZTE and the subsequent investigation of Huawei on the grounds of national security, US-Sino relations are at a significant low point. China has repeatedly warned the US not to damage what it refers to as "win-win" trade agreements between the two countries. 

For now, at least, Xiaomi will content itself with its European expansion, but few analysts would bet against the Chinese company making further inroads into new markets later this year.