The head of ZTE’s US business says the Chinese-based vendor is on track to launch a handset via a major US mobile operator by the end of the year. US CEO George Sun said yesterday that ZTE phones are currently being tested by some tier 1 US operators, which include Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile, reports Reuters. He said that the first handset would most likely be for one of the country’s CDMA operators (Verizon Wireless, Sprint) but that the vendor was targeting both GSM and CDMA longer term. “We try to build out our portfolio for each carrier. The first [phone] is tough,” Sun said. ZTE already offers devices to US regional service provider MetroPCS and also sells mobile datacards via Sprint.

Sun added that the vendor was also looking at launching a high-end smartphone, but gave no further details. ZTE showcased ten smartphones at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, including handsets customised for Vodafone, China Mobile and China Telecom. ZTE currently has a minimal presence in the US handset market to date, but Sun said the US business was growing despite the recession. ZTE reports its full year 2008 financial results later this week.