2008 Global Mobile Communications - Statistics, Trends & Forecasts

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Last updated: 20 Feb 2008 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 212

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the worldwide development of the mobile sector. Information at a regional level is also provided for the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. The report includes analyses, statistics, forecasts and trends. It provides a comprehensive insight into the progress of mobile and examines some the issues and opportunities.  

Subjects covered include:

·          The future of the mobile industry;

·          Worldwide and regional mobile subscriber statistics;

·          Worldwide mobile ARPU and revenue;

·          Overview of worldwide call charges;

·          Mobile prepaid sector;

·          MVNO market;

·          Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC);

·          Mobile infrastructure;

·          Termination rates, Roaming, Mobile Number Portability (MNP);

·          Mobile spectrum developments;

·          Regional overview.


Researchers: Paul Budde, Lawrence Baker, Lucia Bibolini, Peter Evans, Phil Harpur, Kay Harris, Lisa Hulme-Jones, Paul Kwon, Henry Lancaster, Peter Lange, Kylie Wansink

Edition: 12th

Current Publication Date: February 2008

Next Publication Date; Mar 2009


Executive Summary

While it still too early to claim a turnaround, it is clear that the mobile industry is undergoing profound changes. The saturated developed markets are forcing the industry to find new revenue streams and we are now seeing other organisations such as media companies, content providers, Internet media companies and private equity companies becoming involved in this market.


The emerging markets are also making their mark on the mobile sector; many of the less mature regions around the world are showing significant growth and operators around the world are certainly taking note. The worldwide mobile subscriber base is still growing and this can be attributed heavily to the growth in these markets, with many regions such as Asia Pacific having room for more growth ahead. In 2008 there are now more than 3 billion mobile subscribers worldwide and some of the more mature markets have over 100% penetration. For more information, see chapter 1.2.1, page 4


Mobile ARPU levels differ widely between the regions of the world; however, on the whole all regions have experienced declines in ARPU over the past few years. While the emerging markets are a growth area for mobile services, the ARPU from these markets is low compared with the developed markets. In 2008 overall mobile ARPU levels are expected to decline by at least another 4%. ARPU from mobile voice services has been particularly affected by cuts to tariff rates and the trend towards voice-data substitution. While voice still makes up the majority of mobile traffic, mobile data now contributes around 10% of global mobile ARPU. For more information, see chapter 1.3, page 9.


Operators still struggle to acquire satisfactory ARPU from prepaid mobiles, despite its popularity. Prepaid mobiles now account for more than 60% of the worldwide mobile subscriber base and continue to grow by around 60% per annum. The prepaid model has taken off around most of the world with many countries seeing an ongoing high level of growth. The emerging markets in particular favour prepaid mobile phones, with some markets having over 80% penetration of prepaid compared with the contract segment. For more information, see chapter, page 17.


With more competitors entering the market, mobile communications is rapidly becoming a commodity. Companies that will be able to develop interesting new business models on top of the mobile infrastructure will be much better positioned to entice the end-users. Despite evidence that some MVNOs around the world are struggling, in our opinion MVNOs can still play an important role in the telco industry as long as the business models are changed. MVNOs that are able to focus on customer service and branding will be in a prime position to develop these new business models. For more information, see chapter 2, page 21.


With everyone vying for new revenue streams, network operators are looking to attract customers from outside the established wireless market. Given the right regulatory and pricing conditions, mobile operators can compete directly with carriers by offering fixed services over their wireless networks. Neither fixed nor mobile operators can afford to develop their services in isolation any longer; unified services benefit all sides of the industry. Fixed mobile convergence has become a major goal of operators, but it also stands in opposition to a related trend, and goal, of mobile operators: fixed-to-mobile substitution. While the total number of fixed phone lines in the world is still increasing slowly, wireless is growing much more quickly. In Finland in particular, 90% of all voice calls are expected to originate from a mobile phone in 2008; interestingly the Finnish market also has some of the cheapest mobile call charges in the world. Mobile phone usage is also attributed to the increase in overall voice traffic in Western Europe. For more information, see chapter 3, page 28.


In 2008 GSM technologies account for around 85% of the world’s digital mobile phones, the equivalent of over 2.6 billion users. This market share is expected to grow even more due to increasing mobile penetration in the developing markets. With GSM being the leader in terms of 2G, the focus of the CDMA camp has turned to 3G which includes the technologies that bridge the gap to 3G (CDMA 2000) and its 3G successor CDMA2000 1x EV-DO. However, WCDMA technologies currently account for the majority of all 3G subscriptions worldwide. For more information, see chapter 4, page 38.


Short range wireless technology has revolutionised the personal connectivity market by providing freedom from wired connections. The installed base of Bluetooth devices has passed the 1 billion mark and there is some evidence that growth is beginning to slow. Despite this, it continues to be widely adopted throughout the telecommunications, IT and home entertainment industries, as well as such diverse areas as automotive and health care, reaching almost all sectors of the economy. UWB however has the potential to be faster than Bluetooth and despite the absence of a global standard, manufacturers, including Dell have started to ship the first UWB-enabled laptop computers. For more information, see chapter 4.4, page 62.


This report provides an insight and analysis into the trends and developments taking place in the mobile communications sector. Mobile data is covered in detail in a separate annual publication. The report comprises a global overview of the progress of mobile technologies and subscribers, including 3G. Statistics on ARPU, mobile revenue, call charges and prepaid are included as well as information on spectrum developments, termination fees, roaming and mobile number portability. Developments at a regional level are also provided for North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. The report contains BuddeComm’s analyses of the current and future mobile sector. For more information, see chapter 5, page 71.



Key highlights:

·          In terms of 3G, CDMA 2000 1x EV-DO captures around 36% of the market, compared with WCDMA with over 60%.

·          Data applications were the main source of growth for mobile satellite services in 2007. For more information, see chapter 4.5, page 70.

·          International roaming charges are beginning to decline and the cost of making and receiving calls while abroad is becoming cheaper, particularly in Europe. For more information, see chapter 5.1.2, page 72.

·          Worldwide over 60% of mobile subscribers use prepaid.

·          With subscriber penetration levels reaching 83% by early 2008, the US carriers and particularly the MVNOs are increasingly offering prepaid plans to attract the remaining 20% of non-subscribers. For more information, see chapter 7.1.1, page 86.

·          Despite the publicised problems experienced by some MVNOs, there is growth head for this market and BuddeComm sees MVNOs still playing an important role in the telco industry – as long as business models are changed.


Worldwide MVNO subscribers – 2005 - 2006; 2008; 2011




2008 (e)

2011 (e)

MVNO subscribers (million)






(Source: BuddeComm, 2008)


·          There are now more than a quarter of a billion mobile subscribers in Africa.

·          In South Africa, mobile data revenue now accounts for close to 10% of total mobile revenues. For more information, see chapter 7.4.1, page 100.

·          Despite subscriber growth continuing at close to double-digit figures in 2007, Canada’s wireless penetration still lingers amongst the lowest in the OECD. For more information, see chapter 7.1.2, page 87.


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