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华为欲借AT&T打破美国市场坚冰

Aaron Pressman 2017年03月23日

让芯片得到AT&T的授权,将是华为迈出的坚实的第一步。但想让手机真正进入AT&T的门店销售,华为仍需要很长的时间。

五年前,中国通讯设备巨头华为(Huawei)在全球手机市场只占1%的份额。不过自那以后,它迅速崛起,成为了过去两年中全球第三大手机销售商。

而且,公司还是在几乎被美国市场完全拒之门外的情况下实现这一成就的。

华为并不是没有尝试过。公司起初计划联手谷歌(Google)却遭遇挫败,最近又试图通过网络零售商销售无锁手机,却也收效甚微。如今,华为面临着美国手机市场的一个重要事实:大部分手机都是通过运营商销售的。

The Information网站首先爆出,华为正尝试与美国最大的移动运营商之一AT&T达成协议,不过双方的谈话还只是刚刚开始。据知情人士透露,华为希望AT&T同意让华为专有的麒麟手机芯片使用AT&T的网络,交涉目前处于初期阶段。

然而,AT&T目前还没有给麒麟芯片开放授权,而且该公司经常收到这样的申请,也并不是都予以通过。即便芯片获得了授权,华为还需要与AT&T商讨销售其手机的完整条款和条件,而这一步尚未开始。

两家公司都拒绝对此事做出评论。

IDC的数据显示,华为去年在智能手机市场占据了近10%的份额,仅次于三星(Samsung)和苹果(Apple)。公司的消费电子产品部门主管余承东在接受《财富》(Fortune)采访时表示,他希望在明年的某个时候超过苹果,达到15%的市场占有率。

华为之前的增长主要来源于在中国和欧洲等市场销售廉价手机。为了打破美国市场的坚冰,华为开始提供拥有莱卡(Leica)镜头等优质特色的高端产品。不过上个月在巴塞罗那发布新款旗舰机P10时,华为并未透露它登陆美国的具体日期。公司的中端机型Mate 9的无锁版,已经在亚马逊(Amazon)、百思买(Best Buy)等美国网站有售,还得到了之前曾参与拍摄苹果Mac广告的演员贾斯汀·隆的代言。

不过依靠这种只在网上销售无锁机的做法,华为离取代苹果还差得很远。公司之前曾计划为谷歌代工Nexus手机,但由于销量低迷最终搁浅。之后在Pixel的合作中,谷歌不希望产品上出现华为的品牌标志,促使华为放弃了这个项目。

所以如今,华为将希望寄托在了运营商上,不过公司的选择很有限。只有AT&T和T-Mobile的移动网络与华为的芯片产品完全兼容。而这家中国厂商正在起诉T-Mobile。

让芯片得到AT&T的授权,将是华为迈出的坚实的第一步。但想让交易彻底达成(如果能达成的话),手机真正进入AT&T的门店销售,华为仍需要很长的时间。假如交易失败,华为要打破美国市场的坚冰还将面临漫长的苦战。(财富中文网)

作者:Aaron Pressman

译者:严匡正

Five years ago, Chinese telecommunications equipment giant Huawei sold barely 1% of mobile phones worldwide. It has since grown quickly, becoming the third-largest seller for the past two years.

And it reached that level while being almost entirely shut out of the U.S. market.

That's not for a lack of trying. An initial strategy of cozying up to Google flopped and a more recent attempt based on selling unlocked phones via online retailers did little to move the needle. Now Huawei is facing up to one of the big realities of the U.S. phone market: most phone sales still go through the carriers.

As first reported by the web site The Information, Huawei is trying to work out a deal with AT&T, one of the largest U.S. carrier, but talks have barely begun. The Chinese manufacturer is in the early stages of having AT&T approve its proprietary Kirin mobile phone chip set for use on AT&T's network, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Still, AT&T has yet to accredit Kirin and is frequently approached for such approvals, which are not always granted. Even if the chips are approved, Huawei would have to negotiate full terms and conditions for AT&T stocking its phones, a next step that's yet to begin.

Both companies declined to comment.

Huawei captured almost 10% of the global smartphone market last year, trailing only Samsung and Apple (aapl, -1.15%), according to IDC. And Richard Yu, who heads the company's consumer electronics unit, has told Fortune that he's aiming to pass Apple and its 15% share sometime next year.

Much of the company's prior growth has come from selling less expensive phones in markets like China and Europe. To crack the U.S. market, Huawei has been offering higher end models with premium features like Leica cameras. But when it introduced its new flagship, the P10, last month in Barcelona, it didn't have anything to say on a date for U.S. availability. A mid-tier model, the Mate 9, is sold unlocked in the U.S. on sites like Amazon (amzn, -1.64%) and Best Buy (bby, -3.27%) and backed by ads starring actor and former Apple Mac pitchman Justin Long.

But the online-only, unlocked effort hasn't produced anywhere near the volume of sales that Huawei needs to overtake Apple. An earlier plan to make Nexus phones for Google (googl, -2.05%) ran aground when sales failed to take off. Then on the latest Pixel line, Google didn't want Huawei's brand to appear on the devices, prompting Huawei to drop the project.

So now it's on to the carriers, with which Huawei's options are limited. Only AT&T (t, -0.80%) and T-Mobile (tmus, -1.01%) run mobile networks fully compatible with Huawei's chip line. And the Chinese manufacturer is suing T-Mobile.

Getting its chipset accredited by AT&T would be a solid first step. But there's still a long time to go before a deal is reached—if ever—for AT&T to actually stock the phones in its stores. And without that deal, it's going to be a long slog to break into the U.S. market.

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