Effects of Policy on Competition in Telecom Equipment Markets: Insights from a Multi-Level Multi-Method Study

64 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2016 Last revised: 2 Oct 2016

See all articles by Chintan Vaishnav

Chintan Vaishnav

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Johannes M. Bauer

Michigan State University-Department of Media and Information

Date Written: March 31, 2016


Telecom network equipment markets continue to play a significant role in shaping the global information and communications system. At one level, network equipment influences network performance attributes and has direct bearings on the dynamics of innovation at higher layers of the Internet ecosystem. More strategically, participating in network equipment markets is of vital importance for nations in the present era when the openness of the Internet is challenged by actions of many stakeholders. During the past decade, momentum in global equipment markets has shifted from established players such as Ericsson, Nokia Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco to emerging firms such as Huawei. Consolidation and takeovers have strongly affected the number of North American network equipment suppliers and raised the question of whether and how public policy could contribute to preventing further decline.

Determining how policy choices affect firm-level competitive advantage in the oligopolistic telecom equipment markets is a complex task. Three major challenges need to be overcome that no single method of analysis can handle well. First, the telecom equipment sector is inherently dynamic with ever-changing technology and market dynamics. Second, data documenting the industry and its main players are heterogeneous, of non-uniform quality, and need to be dealt with at different levels of aggregation (firms, nations) simultaneously. Third, due to endogenous and independent decisions at multiple levels (firms, nations), the determination of future scenarios is enormously difficult.

Thus, there is a lack of understanding and of strong inference about whether and how public policies, – including measures affecting research and development (R&D), procurement, mergers, acquisitions, and international trade – influence the telecom equipment market. This paper reports on a collaborative research project designed to tackle these challenges and to develop a modeling framework that allows for assessing the impact of policies on the national and global dynamics of the telecom equipment industry. To this end, we built a multi-level modeling framework to incorporate and analyze disparate data available about telecom equipment markets to understand the nature of inference possible. First, we built a set of econometric models to study factors that affect revenues and market shares at the level of individual firms and at a more aggregated sector-level for specific technologies like fixed broadband; 2G, 3G, LTE; and optical networks. Data for these analyses were collected from several sources, including Infonetics, Ovum, and public sector databases. We used several econometric techniques including machine-learning approaches to overcome the challenges of heterogeneous data. We then took the findings of these models to build dynamic simulation models of competition that allow us to relax the constraints of the empirical analysis based on historical data, and study the effects of various policy decisions on outcomes such as market shares and revenues.

Our analysis illuminates four sets of lessons: First, we demonstrate the limitations of the available data and its implications for what we can and cannot learn about telecom market even after comprehensive modeling efforts. Second, we discuss how competition has changed in the telecom equipment markets over time and how, despite it being an oligopolistic and overall a fairly stable market, certain firms have exploited competitive advantage by sustained commitment to R&D and strategic mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity. Third, we identify a number of factors that may not have much effect on competitive outcomes and consequently should not be the focus of public policy. Finally, we discuss how a combination of policies can be used to foster an environment of competition even in a seemingly oligopolistic market. We perform this analysis for four global regions: North America; Europe, Middle East, and Africa; Central and Latin America, and Asia Pacific.

Keywords: Telecom network equipment, wireless, broadband, fiber, R&D, trade policy, mergers & acquisitions

JEL Classification: L5, L86, L96, L98, O32, O33, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Vaishnav, Chintan and Bauer, Johannes M., Effects of Policy on Competition in Telecom Equipment Markets: Insights from a Multi-Level Multi-Method Study (March 31, 2016). TPRC 44: The 44th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2757214 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2757214

Chintan Vaishnav (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Johannes M. Bauer

Michigan State University-Department of Media and Information ( email )

409 Communication Arts Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States
517-355-8372 (Phone)
517-355-1292 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.msu.edu/~bauerj

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