2010 Global Mobile Communications - Key Trends and Growth in a Challenging Environment

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Last updated: 30 Mar 2010 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 165

Analyst: Kylie Wansink

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the worldwide development of the dynamic mobile sector. Information at a regional level is also provided for the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The report includes analyses, statistics, forecasts and trends. It provides a comprehensive perspective of the overall global and regional mobile industry and explores key issues and opportunities.

Subjects covered include:

  • Analyses of key issues and opportunities;
  • Worldwide and regional mobile subscriber statistics;
  • Mobile Revenue, ARPU and Call Charge Statistics;
  • Mobile Termination, Roaming, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) Trends;
  • Mobile prepaid sector and statistics;
  • 3G market overview and statistics;
  • Mobile handset market overview and statistics;
  • MVNO market and statistics;
  • Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) and Fixed Mobile Substitution (FMS);
  • Regional overview for Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

Researchers:- Paul Budde, Lawrence Baker, Lucia Bibolini, Peter Evans, Lisa Hulme-Jones, Paul Kwon, Henry Lancaster, Peter Lange, Tine Lewis, Stephen McNamara, Kylie Wansink

Current publication date:- March 2010 (9th Edition)

Next publication date:- March 2011

Executive Summary

When reflecting upon the last decade; the rapid uptake of mobile technology must be highlighted as an outstanding phenomenon that has forever changed society. Despite the challenges of the current industry environment; mobile subscriber growth continues with the emerging markets leading the way. While the industry is coping with a number of key issues, including the economic downturn, saturation of developed markets and spectrum concerns - it is still expected that in 2011 there will be over 5 billion mobile subscribers worldwide.

Around the world the mobile industry is screaming out for more spectrum; the first countries are moving forward but others are still working on their spectrum plans. The industry, quite rightly, is asking their governments for clarification regarding their spectrum policies. There is good evidence that more spectrum is required if we want to make the most of all the new opportunities that mobile and wireless broadband technology have to offer our society and our economy.

In early 2010, 3G subscribers accounted for around 13% of all mobile subscribers worldwide and it is full steam ahead for one of the largest emerging markets – China, which is benefitting from huge investments in 3G network deployment. India also continues to work on 3G licensing arrangements despite the regulatory battles that have hindered development. The business case for 3G is building around the world and most 3G deployments now rollout smoothly in contrast to the many problems experienced in early years.

While the number of mobile subscribers continues to grow worldwide; the industry is still grappling with declining ARPU. The economic downturn is not the only factor driving down ARPU; the increasingly competitive market involving price wars and new service developments and the tendency for mobile subscriber growth to mainly come from the low-income emerging markets are all playing a part.

International roaming charges and mobile termination rates have dropped due to both competition and the introduction of regulations/price capping. As mobile operators search for new revenue streams, attention is turning to increasing mobile customers’ usage of international roaming services, including mobile data roaming services.

Overall handset sales and mobile handset revenue were also in decline in early 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis. However by the end of Q3 2009 this decline in handset sales appeared to have stabilised and by Q4 2009 the industry actually recorded positive growth again. There is also evidence that sales of smart phones are growing despite handset sales overall being down. While Nokia has been losing market share in recent times; it still retains its dominant position as the leading handset manufacturer, followed by Samsung. Despite only being in the handset market for a couple of years, Apple’s iPhone has also become popular and this was reflected in Apple’s Q3 2009 operating profit.

To date, MVNOs have only had a significant presence in the developed markets of North America and Western Europe, which account for the majority of subscribers. However in the next couple of years, MVNOs are expected to continue emerging in the developing markets of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia Pacific. The MVNO market has also witnessed a shift away from traditional business models as operators and new market entrants’ trial models based on niche markets including data services, music services, health services, luxury services and low price services (including the prepaid market).

The prepaid market has traditionally attracted consumers on lower or restricted budgets and there are a number of prepaid MVNOs successfully operating in this market. Prepaid plans have been heavily marketed as a way to save money in the economic downturn – and it appears to be working as consumers turn to its services as a way to cut costs. This is fuelling competition, resulting in an emerging new image for this sector as the differences between prepaid and postpaid service offerings fade. From a broader perspective, the prepaid model is still a huge success worldwide, particularly in the developing markets.

The much anticipated Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) is developing slower than many operators would have hoped. However enthusiasm for the potential of this technology remains and more and more we are seeing Unified Communications merge with FMC developments. Fixed Mobile Substitution (FMS) also continues to take place around the world as mobile operators seek to ensure this phenomenon continues.

This report provides valuable insights and analysis into the trends and developments taking place in the dynamic mobile communications sector. The report comprises global and regional statistics and information on mobile growth, including 3G and the prepaid market. Other key topics covered include global mobile handset development and growth, the progress of FMC and FMS and the global MVNO market. Valuable trends, supported by statistics, are provided for ARPU, mobile revenue, call charges, and Minutes of Use (MoU), as well as information on mobile termination, roaming and Mobile Number Portability (MNP). Information at a regional level is also provided for North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Please note: Mobile broadband is covered in detail in a separate annual publication.

Market highlights:

  • The resilient mobile industry is still growing despite the challenges and overall global mobile revenues are predicted to reach over $1 trillion around 2012.
  • MVNO subscribers will account for around 2-3% of all mobile subscribers worldwide in 2010.
  • Around the world there is a varying degree of how many minutes on average a mobile user spends per month – with Hong Kong and India having some of the highest usage in the world.
  • Handset sales rebounded in Q4 2009, recording a positive growth of at least 10%..
  • In 2010 there will be an estimated 3.5 billion prepaid subscribers worldwide with the majority of prepaid users residing in Asia Pacific.

Number of prepaid subscribers worldwide – 2008; 2010; 2012


Approximate no. of prepaid subscribers (billion)



2010 (e)


2012 (e)


(Source: BuddeComm, 2010) 

  • China is the world’s largest mobile communications market.
  • The Middle East contains some of the highest penetration rates in the world led by the UAE, which has passed the 200% mark. Growth rates remain astonishingly high in the light of these figures.
  • Mobile market penetration in Africa is expected to pass 50% during 2010; at least seven countries have broken the 100% barrier.
  • The wireless industry in North America continues to be one of the fastest growing markets in telecommunications, despite the economic downturn.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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