Chinese telecommunications equipment company ZTE Corp. is looking to establish a mobile phone manufacturing plant in Zambia, possibly starting construction by the end of the year, according to company officials.

ZTE announced last week that it has started a feasibility study to iron out final details for the plant. The feasibility study comes three years after The Zambian government and ZTE signed a memorandum of understanding to build a plant.

ZTE’s chief representative in Zambia, Li Feng, said the company has had to consider issues such as how to train local personnel and which models to build.

The company is China’s largest telecom equipment provider, specializing in customized network systems for carriers worldwide. ZTE develops and manufactures equipment for fixed, mobile, data and optical networks as well as for mobile phones.

Zambia is strategically located and would provide an opportunity for ZTE to export mobile handsets to many African countries, Feng noted. ZTE is not only targeting the Zambian market but all of the countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, which include Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya, Feng said.

ZTE has signed a number of telecom equipment contracts with African ISPs (Internet service providers) in Zambia. ZTE last year signed contracts with the Zambia Telecommunication company (ZAMTEL), an ISP, to supply GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) equipment. In Benin, ZTE also signed a GSM equipment contract last year with local operator Office des Postes et Telecommunications.