New analysis from Wireless Intelligence reveals that the top 20 mobile operators and operator groups ranked by total connections represented over 58% of global mobile connections in Q1 09. This collective footprint totals 2.4 billion connections and spans 118 of the 223 global markets tracked by Wireless Intelligence.
In first position is China Mobile, which accounts for 11.5% of the total global connections across its fully-owned interests in China and Hong Kong. With a combined 479 million connections, China Mobile surpasses any other aggregated group in the global study by a factor of two.
Vodafone Group takes second position with 247 million total connections across the 19 markets in which it holds a majority stake in an operator. Vodafone's most recent expansion comes via Ghana, India and the imminent commercial launch in Qatar. UK-based Vodafone has majority-holdings in 10 markets in its home region of Western Europe, the remainder falling across Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.
Two groups are in close contention for third and fourth place: Spain's Telefnica and Mexico's Amrica Mvil. The two groups respective footprints outline the intense competition between the two; Telefnica and Amrica Mvil operate in 13 of the same markets in Latin America, with the latter running a close second place for connections worldwide, despite Telefnicas heavy European presence.
Overall within the top 20, the study found that the next-generation connections base represents less than 20% of total connections. This is due to two main factors. Firstly, certain groups have footprints in regions where next-generation network deployment is at an early stage (China), or the majority of licence awards have yet to take place (India). Secondly, it highlights the expansion of the predominately European-based groups into the emerging markets.
High penetration in mature markets is slowing the opportunity for organic growth, as operators push for multiple connections per customer and secondary data connections, says Wireless Intelligence Analyst, Will Croft. At the other end of the spectrum, the emerging markets still produce lucrative profit-making ventures and phenomenal growth. We are seeing more consolidation than ever before, as mergers and acquisitions drive non-organic growth in the mature markets, while expansion into the emerging markets remains a key priority for the larger operator groups.