If one had to select a single adjective to describe the telecom sector in 2011, “turbulent” would probably do nicely, as many of the biggest news stories of the year involved natural disasters, buyouts, splits, big names falling from glory and the death of an icon.
Arguably the biggest story of the year in terms of scale was the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the coast of Tohoku in Japan in March, killing close to 16,000 people. Apart from the obvious widespread death, destruction and radiation fears via the damaged nuclear power plant at Fukushima, the disaster also wreaked havoc on telecom infrastructure and offshore cables.
The earthquake/tsunami wasn’t the only natural disaster to strike the region this year. Indeed, it wasn’t even the first – New Zealand had been struck by a deadly earthquake a month earlier, and Australian telcos had to cope with damage caused by massive flooding. Thailand was also socked by flood waters, though industry concerns were focused less on telecom infrastructure and more on numerous components manufacturers being shut down and the potential impact on the supply chain for mobile devices and hard drives.
It was also a year that saw some interesting and unexpected shifts in the vendor landscape. Sony-Ericsson finally split up (with Sony taking over the venture), Microsoft bought Skype, and Motorola’s newly spun-off handset division, Motorola Mobility, was bought by Google (of all companies), while Nokia Siemens Networks completed the $975 billion purchase of Moto’s infrastructure business, Motorola Solutions.
Ironically, by the end of the year, NSN began selling off almost everything unrelated to the Moto purchase and its own mobile broadband division (with the exception of its Wimax business, now owned by NewNet) as part of a major restructuring move. NSN will focus on mobile broadband and managed services, and sell the rest or manage them for value. (As we went to press, NSN had already sold its wireline broadband access business to ADTRAN.)
That restructure also includes plans to slash 17,000 jobs, which was another trend in 2011: cutting workforces.