《经济学人》:美国移动通讯业-联姻大胆,反响不佳
日期:2011-04-20 10:45

(单词翻译:单击)

Mobile telecoms in America美国移动通讯业

An audacious merger with a poor reception(注1)联姻大胆,反响不佳

AT&T’s ambitious bid to reshape America’s wireless market has spooked rivals. But it faces significant hurdles
AT&T的竞标雄心勃勃,意在重塑美国无线通讯市场,竞争对手惊慌失措。但并购也面临重大阻碍

PEOPLE who enjoy poking fun at the patchy quality of AT&T’s mobile-phone network in America were provided with some fresh comedy material this week. “So, AT&T and T-Mobile are getting married. You’re all invited. But there will be no reception afterwards,” tweeted one wag after news emerged on March 20th that AT&T had bid a breathtaking $39 billion for T-Mobile USA, a smaller wireless operator owned by Germany’s Deutsche Telekom.

在美国,AT&T移动电话网络质量不稳常遭人取笑,那些以此为乐的人,本周有了新鲜笑料。3月20日,AT&T以390亿美元的惊人出价,竞购德国Deutsche Telekom公司旗下的小型无线通讯运营商T-Mobile USA,新闻曝光后,一条段子在Twitter上风传:“于是,AT&T跟T-Mobile喜结良缘。人人获邀出席。但之后却无人设宴,也无人赴宴。”

Amusing as this is, the deal itself is no laughing matter. On the contrary, the proposed merger, which needs the approval of antitrust and telecoms regulators, has sparked a good deal of controversy over whether it will be good or bad for American consumers. Some members of Congress have called for a thorough review of the transaction and consumer groups have been quick to condemn it.

段子很有趣,但交易本身却非笑料。相反,这桩须获反垄断机构及通讯监管机构批准的并购提案,引发了多场论战,争论此次交易对美国消费者是利是弊。一些国会议员呼吁全面评估这桩交易,而多个消费者团体迅速予以谴责。

Their concern is hardly surprising. America’s four largest mobile-phone operators—AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel—already account for 82% of the national market. Assuming the transaction goes ahead as planned, AT&T would add T-Mobile’s 34m customers to the 96m that it had at the end of 2010, propelling it well ahead of Verizon, its main rival.

他们如此关注,并不足为奇。美国四大移动电话运营商——AT&T、Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA及Sprint Nextel,已占全美无线通讯市场的82%。去年底,AT&T用户达9600万,倘若交易如期进行,T-Mobile的3400万用户也收归帐下,AT&T就将大大领先其主要竞争对手Verizon。

Critics of the deal, which AT&T hopes to complete within 12 months, say it will undermine efforts made many years ago to inject more competition into America’s telecoms industry. In the mid-1970s the government started investigating AT&T’s dominant position in fixed-line telephones, which led to the break up in 1984 of “Ma Bell” into eight pieces. Could the bid for T-Mobile be a sign that monopoly Ma is trying to return from her grave?

AT&T希望此事一年搞定,但批评人士称,这将破坏多年前为促进美国通讯业竞争而作出的种种努力。上世纪七十年代中期,政府开始调查AT&T在固定电话业务上的主导地位,导致“贝尔大妈”在1984年被大卸八块。而今年这起竞购,会成为“大妈”试图起死回生的一个标志吗?

AT&T maintains that its deal will not be anticompetitive, even though it will leave it and Verizon with a combined 70% share of the American market, up from 58%. It points out that the average inflation-adjusted price for wireless services in America fell by 50% from 1999 to 2009 according to the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, even though there were several large mergers involving mobile-phone companies during that period. The company also argues that many local markets in America still have five or more mobile-phone firms pitching for customers’ business, so taking T-Mobile out of the mix should not dent competition.

交易达成后,AT&T与Verizon在美市场总份额,将从58%提升至70%,即便如此,AT&T仍坚称这笔交易并不反竞争。它指出,根据国会下属机构“美国审计总署”的数据,1999~2009年期间,即使有好几起移动电话企业大并购,美国无线通讯服务经过通胀调整后的均价,还是下跌了一半。AT&T也表明,美国众多本地市场,仍有超过五家移动电话公司,竞价提供客户业务,因此从这场混战中带走T-Mobile,应不致破坏竞争。

Fans of the deal reckon such arguments should be enough to convince regulators. Hal Singer of Navigant Economics, a consulting firm, notes that although T-Mobile’s prices are low, it has been losing subscribers rapidly, which suggests that it is hardly an effective check on AT&T. That may explain why Deutsche Telekom is so keen to say auf Wiedersehen to its American wireless business.

支持交易的人认为,上述理由足以说服监管机构。咨询公司Navigant Economics的Hal Singer注意到,尽管T-Mobile的服务价格低廉,订户却一直迅速流失,表明对AT&T的攻势难以阻遏。这可以解释,Deutsche Telekom何以如此热衷向其美国无线通讯业务道“再见”。

However, an antitrust expert says that exclusive, nationwide device deals such as the one AT&T struck with Apple in 2007 for distribution of the latter’s iPhone could encourage regulators to take a far broader view of the market than they have done in the past, not least because in smartphones, the near-duopoly of AT&T and Verizon will be so much stronger.

然而,一位反垄断专家称,几起全国性设备专营交易,如AT&T在2007年与苹果就独家销售iPhone达成协议,可能促使监管机构以较以往更长远的眼光,审视该市场,尤其因为智能电话市场上,AT&T与Verizon几近两家独大,监管机构若不行动,该局面会愈加铁板一块。

At an industry conference this week, Dan Hesse, the boss of Sprint Nextel, gave warning that allowing AT&T to walk off with T-Mobile would leave “too much power…in the hands of two”. The Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include firms such as Google and Facebook, echoed that sentiment. In a statement on March 22nd it said that the proposed deal “may be the most aggressive and anti-consumer merger proposal in history.”

本周,在一场业界会议上,Sprint Nextel老板Dan Hesse警告,允许AT&T带走T-Mobile,会导致“两者掌握的力量过多”。“计算机与通信产业联盟”也附和此观点。其成员包括Google跟Facebook之类的企业。3月22日,该联盟发表了一份声明,称这桩交易提案“可能是史上最咄咄逼人又反消费者的并购提议。”

AT&T’s plan could also hit another snag. In several previous mergers between mobile-phone companies regulators have required the merging businesses to sell wireless spectrum, network infrastructure and other assets in some local markets to win their approval. This has allowed smaller competitors such as US Cellular and MetroPCS to snap up the assets, turning them into stronger rivals in those areas. AT&T has made it clear it is willing to do the same thing to get a green light for its deal. But given the great clout the new entity would have, regulators may conclude that even a large number of disposals would not guarantee robust competition in some areas.

AT&T的计划可能会碰到另一个难题。此前几宗移动电话公司并购案,监管机构都要求合并企业在某些当地市场卖掉无线频谱、网络基础设施及其他资产,以获准并购。小竞争者如US Cellular和MetroPCS得以抢购这些资产,在这些地区壮大。AT&T清楚表示,只要交易获准,它也会照做。不过,鉴于此次并购产生的新实体影响甚巨,监管机构可能断定:就算并购企业大规模出售资产,也无法保证某些地区竞争机制健全,因而不予批准。

An annual report on the state of America’s wireless industry published last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which along with the Department of Justice must approve AT&T’s bid, shows that regulators were already concerned about the state of competition in mobile telephony before this week’s news. Having previously affirmed, year after year, that the industry was “effectively competitive”, it declined to do so, though it made no specific recommendations on how to improve matters.

AT&T的竞购须得联邦通信委员会(FCC)与美国司法部核准才可进行。而去年,FCC发布了一份《美国无线通讯产业状况年度报告》,表明本周联姻消息爆出前,监管机构已对移动电话产业竞争状况忧心忡忡。此前,FCC年复一年都证实该产业存在“有效竞争”,而今却不肯这么说,尽管它对如何改进问题也无确切建议。

Wrapped in the flag假爱国真谋私

All this explains why AT&T has been doing its best to drape its deal in the Stars and Stripes. Among other things, it argues that T-Mobile’s subscribers will be able to benefit from its investment in a new, fourth-generation (4G) high-speed wireless broadband network, which will further the Obama administration’s goal of creating a connected population. (Deutsche Telekom was supposedly unwilling to make a similar investment in its infrastructure.) AT&T also trumpets the fact that its deal would transform T-Mobile from a foreign-owned outfit into an American one.

上述这一切说明了,AT&T为何一直在千方百计让这笔其实为了它自个的交易,也看似对美国有利。方式包括,它表示正在部署一种新的4G高速无线宽带网,将会促使奥巴马政府打造互联人群的目标更进一步,而T-Mobile的订户亦会从中受益。而据信,Deutsche Telekom并不愿进行同样的基础设施投资。AT&T还大肆鼓吹一个事实,那就是这笔交易可能会让T-Mobile从外企变为美企。

But nationalistic considerations should not be allowed to obscure the underlying impact that the proposed deal would have on consumers. Indeed, America’s politicians and regulators would do well to look at other countries’ experience before reaching a decision on AT&T’s bid.

不过,所谓爱国的理由,不应当拿来掩盖交易提案可能对用户造成的潜在冲击。其实,美国的政客及监管机构在决定AT&T的竞购前,应当借鉴他国的经验。

Canada provides a cautionary tale. There, three big companies, TELUS, Bell Mobility and Rogers Communications, were together allowed to gain control of almost 95% of the wireless market. Amid complaints about high call rates (among the rich world’s priciest) and a lack of innovation, the government used a spectrum auction in 2008 to create a raft of new players. But these have largely struggled against the industry’s behemoths.

加拿大的故事可资警醒。该国三大巨头——TELUS, Bell Mobility及Rogers Communications,获准联手掌控了加国95%的无线通讯市场。加拿大话费高昂,全球最贵,且缺乏创新,民众对此抱怨连连,对此,2008年,加政府利用频谱拍卖方式来产生新玩家。不过这些企业应对该国垄断巨头竞争,大多要苦苦挣扎。

British regulators are taking steps to avoid a similar fate. On March 22nd the country’s telecoms regulator said it would auction a chunk of radio spectrum next year for 4G services. And it said it wanted to manage the auction so as to ensure the country will have at least four national mobile-phone operators capable of providing consumers with higher-quality wireless data services.

英国监管机构正采取措施避免重蹈覆辙。3月22日,该国通讯监管机构称,明年可能拍卖大量无线电频谱用于4G服务,且称要监管此次拍卖,以确保该国至少有四家全国性移动电话运营商,能为用户提供高质量无线数据服务。

Thanks to AT&T’s move this week, American regulators will now have to decide how best to defend the interests of consumers there. Mobile-phone users will be hoping that they dial C for choice rather than D for duopoly.

幸亏AT&T本周行动了,美国监管机构现在必须决定,如何最大程度捍卫美国用户利益。移动电话用户希望拨“C”自己选择,而非拨“D”,让无线通讯市场两家独大。

注1:An audacious merger with a poor reception
audacious merger 与poor reception都语带双关。
audacious merger的merger表面指AT&T针对T-Mobile的bid,又呼应AT&T and T-Mobile are getting married这句,俏皮地将其比喻为联姻。

而audacious则指390亿美元的惊人出价,同时指此次并购faces significant hurdles,并且 has sparked a good deal of controversy。
poor reception一方面指AT&T的并购交易引发各方质疑,不受欢迎,一方面又呼应the patchy quality of AT&T’s mobile-phone network in America这句,暗指AT&T的移动电话网络信号接收不良。

分享到
重点单词
  • comedyn. 喜剧,滑稽,幽默事件
  • dentn. 凹痕,心理阴影,挫伤 vt. 弄凹 vi. 形成凹
  • controversyn. (公开的)争论,争议
  • benefitn. 利益,津贴,保险金,义卖,义演 vt. 有益于,得
  • checkn. 检查,支票,账单,制止,阻止物,检验标准,方格图案
  • monopolyn. 垄断,专利,独占,控制
  • populationn. 人口 ,(全体)居民,人数
  • thoroughadj. 彻底的,完全的,详尽的,精心的
  • ambitiousadj. 有雄心的,有抱负的,野心勃勃的
  • impactn. 冲击(力), 冲突,影响(力) vt. 挤入,压紧