Chinese carriers dominate global operator ranking as M&A deals shake up US market

19 SEP 2014
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NEW ANALYSIS: GSMA Intelligence ranks top 30 operator groups based on connections and revenue

All three Chinese mobile operators feature in the top ten in GSMA Intelligence’s latest ranking of mobile operator groups, underlying China’s status as the world’s largest mobile market.

The study ranks global operators using a model based on reported mobile connections and mobile revenue (see methodology below). China Mobile was comfortably the largest group by both measures, reaching 790.6 million mobile connections and recording annualised revenue of £66.4 billion for the period to Q2 2014. China Mobile’s two domestic rivals, China Unicom and China Telecom, are ranked third and tenth, respectively.

The remaining positions in the top ten were filled predominantly by operator groups with substantial global footprints across multiple markets, including Vodafone, Telefónica, América Móvil, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and VimpelCom.

The ranking of the US operator groups has been impacted by large-scale M&A activity over the last 12 months. The largest deal during the period saw Japan’s SoftBank acquire Sprint Nextel for $21.6 billion, a deal that closed in July 2013. The enlarged SoftBank Group stands at number 12 in our ranking, however it is fourth in terms of revenue. This reflects the advanced nature of the US and Japanese markets where SoftBank is present. SoftBank has subsequently been linked with a move to acquire Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile US, though that deal was reportedly abandoned in recent weeks over concerns it would be blocked by regulators.

SoftBank’s US rival Verizon Wireless was ranked second in terms of revenue but only 13th overall. This means that AT&T is the only US operator in the top ten, at number eight.

Other recent M&A deals that have impacted positions in the ranking include Etisalat’s completion of a $5.7 billion deal to acquire a majority share in Morocco’s largest mobile operator Maroc Telecom (from Vivendi Group) in May 2014; and Oi Group completing the acquisition of the operational assets of Portugal Telecom Group in May 2014 as part the ongoing merger between the pair.

Notes on methodology
Subsidiaries are included within a parent group as per reported consolidation. Minority holdings (less than 50 percent plus one share) are included where a group does so within its audited financial statements.

Data for connections is shown as the period-ending value, excluding customers from any subsidiaries that have been divested over the course of the year. Revenue data is annualised, such that revenue attributed to any qualifying subsidiary is included on a quarterly basis over the four quarters provided the subsidiary meets the rules for consolidation in the respective quarter.

The ranking gives equal weighting to period-ending connections and annualised mobile revenue in determining final positions. The ranking by connections and revenue is combined to give an overall ‘score’, with a lower combined score ranking higher. For example, Vodafone is ranked second by connections and fifth by revenue, giving it a combined score of 7 (2+5). This ranks the group second behind China Mobile, which scores 2 (1+1), as it the largest group by both connections and revenue. Where scores are tied, the rank by connections is used as the deciding factor.

Operator-group ranking, consolidated ownership, Q2 2014

(million) 1
Rank12-month mobile revenue
(£ billion)
1China Mobile, China790.61£66.41
2Vodafone Group 3435.92£42.15
3China Unicom, China295.03£21.510
4Telefónica Group249.46£30.27
5América Móvil Group 3266.95£25.59
6Deutsche Telekom Group 3146.912£30.86
7Orange Group184.68£16.111
8AT&T, United States116.616£44.83
9VimpelCom Group218.27£11.414
10China Telecom, China180.29£16.012
11Bharti Airtel Group287.24£7.918
12SoftBank Group105.020£43.04
13Verizon Wireless, United States104.622£52.42
14Telenor Group175.610£8.717
15MTN Group 3169.711£8.916
16Etisalat Group 2, 3119.715£7.121
17Telecom Italia Group104.821£10.615
18Sistema Group 3113.918£7.619
19NTT DOCOMO Group63.631£26.68
20Hutchison Whampoa Group72.726£6.723
21Ooredoo Group93.223£5.030
22TeliaSonera Group 364.230£6.424
23au (KDDI), Japan41.041£12.313
24Telkomsel, Indonesia137.414£3.341
25Axiata Group 3115.717£3.638
26MegaFon Group70.228£5.528
27Idea Cellular, India139.013£2.847
28Oi Group 2, 362.433£5.229
29KPN Group 338.743£6.922
30SK Telecom, South Korea 328.046£7.620

Source: GSMA Intelligence

1 Connections and revenue are aggregated as the sum of each group’s consolidated subsidiaries

2 Estimated connections

3 Includes minor contribution from fixed-line services

  • Dan

    china mobile is taking advantages of 4G-LTE, while its 3G network share ranked least in chinese market