Mobile firms look to mature markets to drive revenue
The first two positions in the latest ranking remain unchanged with China Mobile at #1 and Vodafone Group at #2. However, China Mobile's lead over Vodafone is significantly reduced when measured in terms of revenue. The Chinese firm has almost twice as many subscribers but Vodafone generates significantly higher revenue per subscriber due to its presence in key Western European markets such as Germany, UK, Italy and Spain, which continue to account for the bulk of group revenue. The other two Chinese mobile operators also drop further down the list when measured by revenue; China Unicom is ranked #5 by connections but #20 by revenue, while China Telecom (#24 by connections) fails to make the top 25 ranking.
Like Vodafone, other large operator groups with a significant presence in Western Europe are highly-ranked with Germany's Deutsche Telekom at #3, Spain's Telefonica at #5 and Orange-owner France Telecom at #8. French operators score particularly highly; along with Orange France (France Telecom's largest revenue generator), Vivendi – majority owner of second-placed SFR – is at #14 and even third-placed operator Bouygues - ranked a lowly #70 in terms of global connections - is at #25 by revenue.
Deutsche Telekom's position is bolstered by its US subsidiary – T-Mobile USA. The unit is the fourth-largest US operator and has been struggling to compete recently with larger rivals, but it remains the largest contributor of revenue at the German firm. All three of T-Mobile USA's domestic rivals make the top ten: market-leader Verizon Wireless at #4, second-placed AT&T at #6 and third-placed Sprint Nextel at #10. None of these three operators are ranked in the top ten when measured by subscriber connections. ARPU at the US operator groups is calculated at around the US$50 mark, giving the US market the second-highest ARPU levels after Japan.
Completing the top ten is Japanese operator groups NTT DoCoMo (#7) and KDDI (#9), while the third-placed Japanese mobile operator – SoftBank – is at #13. Calculated ARPU at the three Japanese operators is the highest among the top 25 groups.
Notably absent from the list are any Indian-based mobile operators, reflecting the fact that fierce price competition in the world's second-largest mobile market is squeezing revenue at most local operators. Five Indian operators – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices and BSNL – were represented as top 5 in the subscriber connections ranking in India. Vodafone controls the country's third-placed operator and India is the UK firm's single largest market in terms of connections. However, India accounted for less than 10% of Vodafone Group revenues in Q4/2009. Vodafone's presence in India also partly explains why calculated group ARPU (US$17, EUR 13.3) is significantly below many of its rival European operator groups.