According to the GSM Association, global mobile connections are expected to exceed 6.8 billion by the end of 2012 – and 43% of these connections will be carried by the world’s 10 largest mobile networks.
With a combined connection base of 2.92 billion subscribers the 10 largest mobile networks in the world carry the bulk of mobile users, filtered across continents, through partners and subsidiaries.
The GSMA makes a distinction between “connections” (number of SIM cards on a network) and “subscriptions” (number of individual people on a network); however, the United Nation’s telecommunications arm, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) does not make this distinction, and counts a SIM card as a subscription.
The GSMA expects real “subscription” figures to be closer to 3.2 billion by the end of 2012. For the basis of this article, the ITU’s defintion of a subscription (GSMA: connection) is used.
When looking at mobile subscriptions, globally, it comes as no surprise that Asia dominates the networks. With a population exceeding 4.1 billion out of the global population of over 7 billion people, Asia has by far the largest base of mobile users.
This is echoed by the largest mobile networks on the continent sporting massive subscriber numbers.
The largest mobile network, globally, is China Mobile, which holds almost 700 million subscribers on its network. Competing network, China Unicom, by comparison is the 6th largest network, overall, with 230 million subscribers.
According to figures from the ITU, China has over one billion mobile subscribers.
Another Asian powerhouse network is India’s largest network operator, Bharti Airtel, which is the third largest network, globally, with over 260 million subscribers.
Russia’s VimpelCom, with 209 million subscribers, is the 8th largest network in the world.
This includes Vodacom’s 58.2 million subscribers from all its operations inside and outside South Africa.
The largest network representing the Americas, is Mexican operator, America Movil, which is the 4th largest network, overall, with close to 252 million subscribers.
The largest network in Africa, and the 9th largest overall, is South Africa’s MTN Group. MTN has operations across Africa, totalling 21 countries in total, and has close to 183 million subscribers.
The UAE’s Etisalat rounds off the top 10 biggest networks with 167 million subscribers.
The 10 biggest mobile networks in the world
|1||China Mobile||China||September 2012||698.5|
|4||América Móvil||Mexico||June 2012||251.8|
|6||China Unicom||China||October 2012||229.5|
|8||VimpelCom Ltd.||Russia||March 2012||209.0|
|9||MTN Group||South Africa||September 2012||182.7|
* Numbers taken from financial reports