China's Xiaomi enters Irish market with Three scooter and phones sales tie-up
Chinese tech giant Xiaomi is to start selling phones, electric scooters and other tech gadgets in Ireland.
The company, which is one of the largest tech manufacturers in Asia, will enter the Irish market through a retail deal with Three. Under the deal, Three will exclusively sell Xiaomi products in its stores and online.
Xiaomi is the world's fourth-largest smartphone maker, behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei.
The launch represents a stepping up of electric scooter sales in Ireland, despite legal and regulatory challenges. Under Irish law, many electric scooters are regarded in a similar category as motorbikes, meaning that they must be taxed and insured, with a driver's licence required.
However, Xiaomi's Mi Electric Scooter requires a manual push start like an electric bicycle. Ebikes are not required to be taxed and insured, nor do they require a driver's licence.
The Mi Electric Scooter will cost €449 and is capable of about 20km on a single charge and travels at up to 25km per hour. It takes around five hours to fully charge.
Three Xiaomi phones will be launched, including the budget Redmi 6 (€149, pictured) and Redmi Note 5 (€199) and the upper mid range Mi Mix 2S (€459).
A range of speakers and headphones will also be introduced, while Three is pushing the fitness-oriented Mi Band 3, a wearable smart health watch, for €39.
The Mi Band 3 is waterproof and shows steps, sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring and app notifications.
Despite not being sold in the Irish market up to now, Three says that there is already an active Xiaomi customer base in Ireland.
"We know that there are around 26,000 Xiaomi products in Ireland that are active," said Elaine Carey, Three's chief commercial officer. "There has been a considerable pent-up demand for these products to be sold here. We already launched in Italy, Spain and Denmark and it's been hugely successful over there. One of the reasons Xiaomi products are so popular is that the company has a general principle of not taking more than 5pc margin in hardware pricing, meaning that they're very, very competitively priced."
Ms Carey said that Three wants to position itself more as a 'digital lifestyle' company that sells smart products, rather than simply a telecoms operator.
Ms Carey said that the integration of the O2 network into Three's network will be complete by the end of 2018.
"After that it's just a matter of getting the IT systems onto one platform, which we expect to complete next year," she said. Ms Carey added that the integration process had been "challenging at times".
Three Ireland is owned by the Hong-Kong based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa. It is Ireland's second-largest mobile network, after Vodafone.