《经济学人》:电信网络双巨头 Two’s company in Telecom networks
日期:2011-12-13 11:09


Telecom networks

Two’s company

In an industry with a cost leader and a price leader, is there room for others?

REVOLUTIONS in technology bring benefits to millions, but the companies that make them happen do not always thrive. Even when demand is booming, competition to meet it can be brutal. Makers of telecommunications networks know this only too well. They perform the unseen miracles that allow ever more people to talk, work and play on ever smarter devices just about anywhere, but their rewards have been mostly meagre.

Merger and failure have thinned their ranks. In 2009 Nortel, a Canadian equipment-maker, went bankrupt. This year Motorola’s wireless-network division was bought by Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), a Finnish-German joint venture created in 2007. France’s Alcatel and America’s Lucent merged in 2006.

None of these mergers has brought much success. NSN has yet to make an annual profit. On November 23rd it said it would shed 17,000 of its 74,000 workers and concentrate on mobile-broadband networks, for which demand is set to grow explosively, and on services (eg, managing and maintaining networks), where it is relatively strong. It had already sold a microwave-technology business; and on November 29th it announced the sale of another small unit. Alcatel-Lucent reported falling revenues and negative cashflow in the third quarter. Investors are said to be impatient with its boss, Ben Verwaayen.
然而这些兼并案例并没有获得多少成功。诺西的年度收益至今还是负的。在11月23日,诺西宣布将裁员17000人(现有员工数74000人),将把经营聚焦于蓬勃发展的移动宽带网络业务和相对强劲的代维业务(如管理和维护网络)。诺西已经出售了自己的微波业务部门;并于11月29日宣布售出了另一个小业务单元。据报,阿朗在3季度销售额下跌,现金流为负。投资者也开始对阿朗的老板本. 韦华恩失去耐心。

Must all struggle? All but two, it seems. Telecoms equipment is a scale game, says Richard Windsor of Nomura, an investment bank. Network-builders need scale to support the hefty fixed costs of research and development. You can be either the cost leader or the technology leader. If you’re neither of those, you’re in a spot of bother.

The technological pace is set by Ericsson, a Swedish company that scoops more than a third of global mobile-infrastructure revenues, according to Gartner, a research firm. It boasts 27,000 patents and was part of a six-firm consortium that paid $4.5 billion for a load of Nortel’s patents in July. Anyone [designing] mobile phones or networks needs an agreement with us, says Hans Vestberg, its boss.
爱立信,这家技术研究型公司引领着技术的步伐; 据高德纳调查,这家来自瑞典的公司攫取了全球三分之一的移动基础网络建设收入。它声称拥有27000项专利,同时也是在7月份为收购北电专利支付45亿美元的财团(由6家公司组成)成员之一。爱立信的老板汉斯. 卫翰思宣称:任何一家设计手机或是网络的公司都需要和我们签订协议。

The cost leader is Huawei, a Chinese firm. Its global market share went up from 4.5% in 2006 to 15.6% in 2010, reckons Gartner, despite the political obstacles it faces in America. (Some American politicians fret about Huawei’s opaque ownership and possible military ties.)
而成本领先者则是一家中国公司, 华为。尽管它在美国市场遭遇了政治障碍(一些美国政客担心华为不透明的所有权及可能的军方背景); 但据高德纳估算,它的全球市场份额依然从2006年的4.5%增长至2010年的15.6%.

Even Ericsson feels the price pinch. Its revenues have risen this year after falling in 2009 and 2010, but its margins have been slimmer. Mr Vestberg explains that Ericsson has been building new networks for mobile operators and modernising old ones. That means winning open tenders and taking an initial hit to margins.
即使是爱立信也在为价格头疼不已。虽然其收入在经历2009, 2010两个财年的下滑后,今年有所回升,但利润却变少了。卫翰思先生解释道,这是因为爱立信在为移动运营商建设新网络同时改造旧网络。这就意味着它每赢得一个公开招标就开始一次对利润的冲击。

Mr Windsor says that the companies caught in the middle lack the margins either to invest on Ericsson’s scale in R&D or to fight Huawei on price. NSN was loth to compete on prices before Rajeev Suri became its boss in 2009, says Bengt Nordstrom of Northstream, a consulting firm. Its market share is down to around a sixth, even with Motorola; it inherited a quarter from its parents. Now Mr Suri is taking an axe to costs, though he has not said exactly what he will chop. He thinks others will also have to narrow their ambitions.
温莎先生称:这些公司都遭遇了利润瓶颈,既无法做到像爱立信对研发的投资规模,又不能和华为打价格战。 据北流咨询公司的本格特•诺德斯特姆称,在2009年拉吉夫•苏瑞担任诺西的老板以前,诺西根本不愿意开打价格战。它以前从母公司继承了1/4的全球市场份额,而现在其市场份额连同摩托罗拉算在一起,已下降到了1/6。如今苏立先生大刀阔斧削减成本,尽管他并没有明确表示要砍掉哪一部分。他认为其它公司同样将会采取收缩战略。

Life will get no easier for those squeezed between the Swedes and the Chinese. Ericsson’s scale and technical edge are handy when, say, talking to mobile operators wanting to handle lots of data faster and without interference. And for those for whom cheap kit is paramount, Huawei will still be hard to beat.

telecommunication n. 电传视讯,远距离通信
impatient adj.不耐烦的
consortium n. 协会, 国际资本家联合
initial adj. 开始的, 最初的
inherit v. 继承

  • pinchn. 捏,一撮,少量,困苦,偷窃 vt. 掐,使 ...
  • botherv. 使恼怒,使不安,烦扰,费心 n. 烦扰,麻烦,焦急
  • globaladj. 全球性的,全世界的,球状的,全局的
  • shedn. 车棚,小屋,脱落物 vt. 使 ... 流出,散发
  • jointadj. 联合的,共同的,合资的,连带的 n. 关节,接
  • negativeadj. 否定的,负的,消极的 n. 底片,负数,否定
  • competitionn. 比赛,竞争,竞赛
  • handlen. 柄,把手 v. 买卖,处理,操作,驾驭
  • technicaladj. 技术的,工艺的
  • beatv. 打败,战胜,打,敲打,跳动 n. 敲打,拍子,心跳