New 'Scoreboard' ranks top 20 global operator groups by mobile connections

Top five positions remain unchanged; VimpelCom/Wind merger creates world's sixth-largest operator


Operator groups present in fast-growing mobile markets in Asia and Latin America are continuing to rise up the rankings in the latest GSMA Intelligence 'Scoreboard,' which this month tracked the top 20 global operator groups based on majority-owned assets in Q2 2011. Minority holdings (less than 50% plus one share) are excluded from this analysis.

The top five positions are unchanged from when we last tracked the connections 'Scoreboard' a year ago (Q2 2010), but there were significant rises elsewhere for operators based in markets such as China, India and Indonesia, which led to several operators in the US and Western Europe slipping down the ranking.

However, the largest increase in the ranking was due to a merger: VimpelCom's acquisition of Wind Telecom, which closed earlier this year. The US$6 billion deal saw VimpelCom acquire the Wind-branded businesses in Italy, plus (via Wind's majority stake in Orascom Telecom) the Orascom networks in fast-growing markets such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria as well as its indirect ownership of Wind Canada.

The consolidation of the Wind Telecom businesses into VimpelCom led to a 115 percent year-on-year increase in VimpelCom's connections base in Q2, propelling it eight places up our ranking list to #6 on 191.9 million total connections. VimpelCom's expansion pushed both China Unicom (#7) and India's Reliance (#8) down one place each from a year ago.

Meanwhile, the top five spots are all held by operator groups with over 200 million total connections each. China Mobile (#1) remains the world's largest mobile operator by some distance, surpassing 600 million connections in Q2 2011. Vodafone (#2), America Movil (#3), Telefonica (#4) and Indian market-leader Bharti (#5) make up the rest of the top five. Bharti's US$3.2 billion in mobile revenue in Q2 2011 is considerably lower than the four other operators in the top five, reflecting Bharti's presence in the ultra low-cost, low-margin Indian and African markets.

China Mobile's two main domestic rivals also make the top 20; China Unicom at #7 and China Telecom at #12, the latter rising up the ranking by seven places year-on-year. Indian operators are also well-represented; as well as Bharti (#5), Reliance (#8), Idea Cellular (#17), state-owned BSNL (#18) and Tata Docomo (#19) also feature in the top 20. India was also the main driver of connections growth at Vodafone (#2) over the year. The UK-based firm agreed to increase its stake in the country's third-placed operator, Vodafone Essar, earlier this year.

Operators in mature markets saw much slower growth, and in some cases connections are in decline. Deutsche Telekom (#14), for example, dropped six places in our ranking from a year ago and reported a 2 percent fall in connections to 105.9 million. France Telecom (#21) dropped out of the top 20 altogether, despite an 8 percent year-on-year increase in connections in their majority-owned markets to 84.9 million. France Telecom has one of the highest proportions of minority ownership stakes - including UK joint-venture Everything Everywhere - the total of which would give the group 192 million connections. Both European giants are in the process of disposing of non-core assets. France Telecom is looking to sell-off minority assets in Portugal, Austria and Switzerland, while Deutsche Telekom is in the process of attempting to sell its US business (T-Mobile USA) to AT&T.

US market-leader Verizon Wireless (#13) fell two positions from last year, while rival AT&T (#16) was unchanged. Like the mature European operators, however, mobile revenues were significantly higher than at their emerging market counterparts.

The next edition of the GSMA Intelligence 'Scoreboard' will track the top 20 operator groups by revenue in Q4 2011.

Rank Operator-group Connections (million) 1 YoY growth, connections YoY change, rank Mobile revenue (US$ billion)
1 China Mobile 616.8 11% - 20.3
2 Vodafone Group 367.4 15% - 15.5
3 América Móvil Group 236.0 12% - 7.7
4 Telefónica Group 227.3 47% - 12.5
5 Bharti Airtel Group 221.2 25% - 3.2
6 VimpelCom Group 2 191.9 115% +8 4.6
7 China Unicom 181.6 16% -1 4.0
8 Reliance Communications 143.3 29% -1 1.0
9 Telenor Group 123.6 36% +4 2.7
10 MTN Group 119.4 18% - 3.5
11 Sistema Group 3 110.8 8% -2 2.5
12 China Telecom 108.4 45% +7 2.4
13 Verizon Wireless 106.3 7% -2 14.7
14 Deutsche Telekom Group 105.9 -2% -6 9.4
15 Telkomsel 102.3 16% +1 1.4
16 AT&T 98.6 10% - 14.2
17 Idea Cellular 95.1 38% +5 1.0
18 BSNL 93.7 29% +2 -
19 Tata DOCOMO (TTSL) 91.0 25% +2 -
20 Telecom Italia Group 86.8 16% -2 4.8

Mobile operator group global ranking by connections, Q2 2011
Source: GSMA Intelligence, company reports

1 Connections are aggregated as the sum of each group's subsidiaries where a minimum of 50% plus one share economic interest is held
2 Includes Orascom Group
3 Includes MTS Group


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