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Wireless giant


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cut 550 jobs in its network-equipment unit as the market for telecom gear continues to struggle.

The Helsinki, Finland, company said it plans to lay off employees in its research-and-development groups in the U.S., U.K., Sweden and Finland. Approximately 240 of these employees will be laid off in the U.S.

Restructuring charges and estimated cost savings were unavailable. A Nokia spokeswoman said details are "still being worked out at this time."

The move comes after similar decisions at competing companies. The world's largest wireless infrastructure maker,



, has laid off more than 40,000 employees in the past two years, with another 4,000 more pink slips expected to be handed out this year.

Nokia's cuts in research and development come as a mild surprise, as Nokia remains one of the technology industry's heaviest investors in research, even as sales growth in the network-equipment business has screeched to a near halt. Despite softness in the wireless-equipment market, Nokia's research-and-development spending increased 2% in 2002 to 3.05 billion euros, or 10.2% of net sales. At the end of 2002, Nokia employed 19,579 research employees, about 38% of its worldwide staff.

"Through these changes, Nokia Networks will ensure a strong R&D focus on its core technologies, and improve its overall competitiveness," said the company in a statement.

In January, the company said it expected its network-equipment business sales to fall 5% to 10%, at a slower pace than the overall market. Last year Nokia generated about 20% of sales from selling network gear to carriers worldwide, which reflected a 13% drop from 2001. The majority of the company's sales come from wireless handset sales.