【英语中国】中国加入4G网络新战场 China’s mobile sector grows up superfast

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所属分类:双语中国

2014-3-4 09:36

小艾摘要: The bustling shopping streets of Shanghai drive home the image of a country glued to mobile devices, often at the expense of passers-by shouldered out of the way by workers hurrying past with smartpho ...
China’s mobile sector grows up superfast
The bustling shopping streets of Shanghai drive home the image of a country glued to mobile devices, often at the expense of passers-by shouldered out of the way by workers hurrying past with smartphone in hand.

The Chinese telecoms market was equally as urgent for the 75,000 people who descended on a bustling Barcelona last week for the industry’s biggest annual conference.

While Europeans and Americans have had superfast 4G services for several years, the close to a billion people signed up to China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier, are only now being given their first sight of so-called 4G or LTE technology.

But such is the scale and speed at which China’s telecoms industry moves, driven by state policy, that there are already more 4G mobile masts installed in China than in the whole of Europe. This gap will widen with a further wave of large tenders expected by the leading equipment makers in the next few months.

China’s adoption of 4G is not just a story about bringing faster internet speeds to the most populous nation. The type of 4G technology – a standard called TD-LTE – used by China Mobile and its rivals means there are wide-ranging ramifications for device makers such as Apple and Samsung and telecoms equipment makers such as Ericsson and Nokia. Not to mention homegrown technology champions such as Huawei, which is benefiting more than most from the country’s telecoms boom.

“The telecoms industry has been the poster child of the Chinese economic boom. A global standard based on a Chinese design is a prestige thing, and also an economic boon to the Chinese telecoms vendors,” says Tom Mowat, lead analyst for Analysys Mason’s Asia-Pacific team.

Need for speed

4G technology is capable of delivering the internet over mobile phones almost instantly, opening up a host of services and applications as well as a vast market for western technology groups such as Apple, which will finally be able to sell its iPhones to China Mobile’s 750m customers.

“By 2016, we estimate that China Mobile will be used for one in ten handsets globally,” says Mr Mowat.

The rapid adoption of superfast internet technology underscores the country’s economic and social development. While Chinese companies were previously seen as cheap imitators of western groups, the introduction of superfast networks has meant new web-orientated businesses such as WeChat and Alibaba are already competing with Silicon Valley rivals.

If at first you don’t succeed

This is not the first time China has sought to take a lead with its telecoms networks. The battle for the 3G market has been fought with unblinking perseverance between GSM and CDMA standards over the past decade. China Mobile, which favoured the TD-CDMA standard, lost. Most global networks now conform to GSM.

This is why there was no iPhone on China Mobile’s network for so many years and why visitors to the Beijing Olympics complained about the poor mobile service at such an important event.

“The government had to force it down the throat of China Mobile and even then the company could not really make it work,” says Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA, an inward investment group.

With 4G, China’s TD standard is not necessarily a competing technology to the more common FDD-LTE technology, since both can coexist in handsets. Equipment makers will not be forced to choose between competing technologies – and as such will give the TD standards a far higher chance of success. The Chinese market is also more mature now, and the sheer scale of the rollout this time involving all three of the country’s telecoms groups means there is a much higher chance of putting the TD technology at the heart of the global telecoms market.

Standards battle

The scale of the 4G programme gives the adopted standard momentum – and China the opportunity to take the lead in the next generation of global broadband technology.

In a growing battle over future technology standards, analysts say China is sponsoring the less popular form of technology through widespread domestic take-up. There are only about 17 TD-LTE mobile networks commercially available worldwide – or one in 40 LTE connections globally.

“The world’s largest operator running this sort of network immediately turns [TD-LTE] into a very successful global standard,” says Mr Mowat.

Division of the spoils

There are some ironies in China’s bold ambitions for the introduction of superfast mobile broadband, given the internet can be incredibly slow because of the “Great Firewall” that blocks or filters foreign sites.

But the speed of the rollout needs to be seen in the context of a telecoms industry largely controlled by the state.

“China Mobile has $65bn on its balance sheet so it can afford to build out very quickly. The government sees its balance sheet as a useful tool,” says Tucker Grinnan, regional head of telecoms for HSBC in Asia.

Much of the work to build the 4G network has been won by Chinese groups such as Huawei and ZTE, which deny direct links to the state.

Western groups such as Ericsson, NSN and Alcatel-Lucent have won sizeable contracts, but some of their executives have expressed dissatisfaction about China Mobile awarding all three western manufacturers a seemingly arbitrary 11 per cent each of its Rmb20bn ($3.25bn) 4G contract.

Beyond 4G

Chinese technology groups are not stopping at 4G in the race for industry leadership, with Huawei committing significant resources to the next generation of so-called “5G” technology.

CCS Insight, a UK-based research group, predicts China will become the leader in next-generation mobile technology in the next two years, leaving behind a Europe where authorities are belatedly pushing the industry to invest “to regain former glory”.

Huawei said that by 2018 it would invest at least $600m in research into 5G technology capable of speeds more than 100 times faster than 4G.

That investment is far more than has been claimed by any western rival.

Indeed, this has now become a battle of regional interests to seek an edge in next-generation technology.

The march towards superfast mobile internet in China has been speeded by government efforts and the desire to create a market to benefit its technology champions.

China consumers will enjoy world-class network quality, with resulting benefits to the internet groups already growing rapidly in the country, though censors will probably continue keeping a close tab on content.

走在上海喧闹的商业街上,路人常常会被手持智能手机、步履匆匆的上班族撞到肩膀。这个国度已经须臾离不开移动设备,上海的街道就是一个缩影。

对于正在召开的世界移动通信大会,中国电信市场的心情和7.5万名与会者的心情一样急切。这些与会者们上周来到熙熙攘攘的巴塞罗那,参加这个全球电信业最大的年度展会。

欧洲和美国享受超高速的4G服务已有好几年时间了,而世界最大的移动运营商中国移动(China Mobile)的近10亿用户,直到最近才刚刚迎来所谓4G或LTE技术。

不过,在国家政策的推动下,中国建成的4G移动基站的数量已超过整个欧洲。中国电信业发展的规模和速度由此可见一斑。未来几个月,中国预计将面对主要设备制造商展开新一轮大规模招标,这将拉大中欧之间的差距。

4G技术给这个人口最多的国家带来的不仅是更快的网速。中国移动及其竞争对手使用的4G技术类型——称为TD-LTE标准——将对苹果(Apple)、三星(Samsung)等手机制造商和爱立信(Ericsson)、诺基亚(Nokia)等电信设备厂商产生广泛影响,更不用提华为(Huawei)等得益于中国电信业繁荣发展的本土科技领军企业了。

咨询公司Analysys Mason亚太团队首席分析师汤姆?莫厄特(Tom Mowat)说:“电信业是中国经济繁荣的有力例证。基于‘中国设计’的一个全球标准,是很有影响力的,也会给中国电信商带来了经济利益。”

不断加速

4G技术可在移动电话上实现近乎实时的网络传输,为一大批服务和应用铺平了道路,也为苹果等西方科技企业打开了广阔的市场。随着中国使用4G技术,苹果最终得以向中国移动的7.5亿用户出售iPhone。

莫厄特说:“我们估计,到2016年,全球每10部手机中,就会有一部使用中国移动的网络。”

对超高速网络技术的迅速采纳,凸显了中国经济和社会的发展。尽管中国企业曾被视为西方企业的廉价模仿者,但引入超高速网络意味着,以网络为导向的新公司——例如微信(WeChat)和阿里巴巴(Alibaba)——已经与硅谷的竞争对手们展开较量了。

中国标准

中国试图以自身标准引领全球电信业发展,这不是第一回。10年来,在中国3G市场上,GSM和CDMA两种标准间的市场争夺战从未停止过。支持TD-SCDMA标准的中国移动败下阵来。大多数国际网络现在采纳GSM标准。

这就是中国移动为何这么多年来都不支持iPhone的原因。难怪北京奥运会的访客们抱怨,这样一场重大活动的移动服务太差劲了。

中国本土咨询公司博达克(BDA)的董事长邓肯?克拉克(Duncan Clark)说:“中国政府强迫中国移动使用本土设计的TD标准,但中国移动没能真正将这项标准发展起来。”

就4G而言,中国的TD标准不必与更通行的FDD-LTE技术竞争,因为二者可以兼容于4G手机。设备制造商不必被迫在相互竞争的技术中做出选择,这给TD标准带来了更大的成功机会。中国的市场如今也更为成熟,此次新技术的推广规模如此巨大,涵盖了国内全部三家电信运营商,意味着TD技术登上全球电信市场中心舞台的机会大大提高了。

标准争夺战

中国4G项目的规模之大,能给其采纳的TD标准带来蓬勃生机,也为中国创造了引领全球下一代宽带技术发展的契机。

分析人士表示,未来技术标准之争正愈演愈烈,中国正通过国内的广泛推广来扶持它自己开发的相对冷门的技术标准。目前,全世界只有大约17个TD-LTE类型的商用移动网络,而TD-LTE连接数只占全球LTE连接总数的2.5%。

莫厄特表示:“运营这类网络的全世界最大运营商,会立刻把(TD-LTE)变成极为成功的全球标准。”

利益分配

颇为讽刺的是,在中国展示其建设超高速移动宽带的宏大抱负的同时,中国“长城防火墙(Great Firewall)”对外国网站的封禁和过滤,却可能会把中国互联网网速降到难以置信的低水平。

不过,衡量4G在中国的推广速度,要考虑一个大背景,那就是电信行业在很大程度上由中国政府把控。

汇丰银行(HSBC)亚洲分行电信方面的区域主管塔克?格里南(Tucker Grinnan)表示:“中国移动的资产负债表规模达650亿美元,它有足够财力开展极为迅速的扩建工程。中国政府将该公司的资产规模视为一个有用工具。”

4G网络的建设大部分由华为(Huawei)和中兴(ZTE)等中国集团承担,不过它们都否认与政府有直接关系。

爱立信、诺基亚西门子通信(NSN)和阿尔卡特-朗讯(Alcatel-Lucent)等西方公司也赢得了规模相当大的合同。不过,中国移动4G合同总规模为200亿元人民币(合32.5亿美元),以上三家公司都只分到了11%的份额,而中国移动表现得十分专断。为此,这三家公司的部分高管已表达了不满。

4G之后

在争夺行业领导地位的比赛中,中国技术企业没有止步于4G,华为已把大量资源投资于下一代的所谓“5G”技术。

总部位于英国的研究集团CCS Insight预计,今后两年,中国将成为下一代移动技术的领头羊,将欧洲甩在后面。在欧洲,当局正推动电信业加大投资“以恢复昔日荣光”,但这一举措可谓姗姗来迟。

华为表示,到2018年,该公司将在5G技术研发上至少投资6亿美元。5G技术的通信速度将超过4G技术100倍。

这一投资规模远远超过了任何西方竞争对手声称将要投资的金额。

事实上,寻求在下一代技术中占据领先地位,已成为一种维护区域利益的争夺战。

中国正大刀阔斧地建设超高速移动互联网,推动这一进程的中国政府希望借此打开一个首先惠及本国科技领军企业的市场。

中国消费者将享受到世界级的网络质量,这将令该国原本已迅速成长的互联网企业受益。不过,审查部门可能会继续密切监视互联网上传播的内容。

译者/何黎

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