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Operator group ranking, Q2 2012

All three Chinese operators make top 10 ranking by connections

China’s three mobile operators all recorded double-digit subscriber growth over the last year, strengthening their respective standings in the latest GSMA Intelligence ‘Scoreboard’ operator ranking.

The new ‘Scoreboard’ tracks the top 20 global operator groups by connections based on majority-owned assets in Q2 2012. Minority holdings (less than 50 percent plus one share) are excluded from the analysis.

China Mobile (#1) extended its lead as the world’s largest operator group, growing connections by 11 percent year-on-year to 683.1 million. Its two domestic rivals both moved up the ranking compared to a year ago - and all three now feature in the top ten for the first time.

China Unicom (#6) moved up one place on the back of a 21 percent increase connections to 219.3 million, while China Telecom (#10) climbed two places as connections increased 33 percent to 144.2 million.

China as a whole surpassed the 1 billion milestone earlier in the year and ended Q2 2012 on 1,047 million connections in total.

India’s Bharti Airtel (#4) was the only other member of the top ten to move up the ranking, recording a 13 percent year-on-year rise in connections (to 250 million) and leapfrogging Telefónica to become the world’s fourth-largest operator group in Q2. However, Bharti's US$3.04 billion in mobile revenue in Q2 2012 is significantly 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.

Elsewhere, France Telecom (#12) returned to the top 20 after dropping out of the list a year ago. The recent fluctuations in its ranking are due to an on-going group strategy of disposing of non-core or minority assets, and strengthening its stake in others. Over the last year, the firm increased its holdings in Poland (Orange) and Egypt (Mobinil) to above the 50 percent threshold allowing both assets to be included in our ranking – adding 14.8 million and 32.4 million connections, respectively, to the group total.

France Telecom also inked a deal in Q4 2011 to acquire 100 percent of Congo Chine Telecom, a mobile operator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The operator currently has only 1.5 million connections but is an example of the “high potential emerging markets” currently being targeted by the group.

US market-leader Verizon Wireless (#16) fell three positions from last year, while rival AT&T (#18) fell by two. Like the mature European operators, however, mobile revenues were significantly higher than at their emerging market counterparts.

Russia’s Sistema Group (#15) recorded the biggest slip in the ranking, dropping four places from a year ago. The group is likely to have subsequently slipped again following the forced shut down of its MTS Uzbekistan subsidiary in Q3 2012, which will reduce its connections total by around 9 million.

Rank Operator-group Connections (millions) 1 YoY Growth, connections YoY Growth, rank Mobile Revenue (US$ billion)
1 China Mobile 683.08 11% - 22.05
2 Vodafone Group 386.88 5% - 13.92
3 América Móvil Group 251.83 7% - 7.98
4 Bharti Airtel Group 250.04 13% +1 3.04
5 Telefónica Group 243.51 7% -1 11.40
6 China Unicom 219.25 21% +1 4.95
7 VimpelCom Group 2 205.05 7% -1 4.58
8 Reliance Communications 154.60 8% - 0.48
9 Telenor Group 152.74 24% - 2.55
10 China Telecom 144.18 33% +2 3.37
11 MTN Group 136.59 14% -1 3.85
12 France Telecom Group 133.38 57% +9 7.18
13 Telkomsel Group 117.24 15% +2 1.43
14 Idea Cellular 117.16 23% +3 1.00
15 Sistema Group 3 114.51 3% -4 2.54
16 Verizon Wireless 111.37 5% -3 15.78
17 Deutsche Telekom Group 107.86 2% -3 8.38
18 AT&T 105.21 7% -2 14.77
19 Telecom Italia 101.10 16% +1 4.10
20 BSNL 98.28 5% -2 0.44

Mobile operator group global ranking by connections, Q2 2012
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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