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2008 Global Mobile Communications - Statistics, Trends and Forecasts


Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the worldwide development of the mobile sector. Information at a regional level is also provided for the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. The report includes analyses, statistics, forecasts and trends. It provides a comprehensive insight into the progress of mobile and examines some the issues and opportunities

Subjects covered include:

  • The future of the mobile industry;
  • Worldwide and regional mobile subscriber statistics;
  • Worldwide mobile ARPU and revenue;
  • Overview of worldwide call charges;
  • Mobile prepaid sector;
  • MVNO market;
  • Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC);
  • Mobile infrastructure;
  • Termination rates, Roaming, Mobile Number Portability (MNP);
  • Mobile spectrum developments;
  • Regional overview.
Researchers: Paul Budde, Lawrence Baker, Lucia Bibolini, Peter Evans, Phil Harpur, Kay Harris, Lisa Hulme-Jones, Paul Kwon, Henry Lancaster, Peter Lange, Kylie Wansink

Edition: 12th


While it still too early to claim a turnaround, it is clear that the mobile industry is undergoing profound changes. The saturated developed markets are forcing the industry to find new revenue streams and we are now seeing other organisations such as media companies, content providers, Internet media companies and private equity companies becoming involved in this market.

The emerging markets are also making their mark on the mobile sector; many of the less mature regions around the world are showing significant growth and operators around the world are certainly taking note. The worldwide mobile subscriber base is still growing and this can be attributed heavily to the growth in these markets, with many regions such as Asia Pacific having room for more growth ahead. In 2008 there are now more than 3 billion mobile subscribers worldwide and some of the more mature markets have over 100% penetration. For more information, see chapter 1.2.1, page 4

Mobile ARPU levels differ widely between the regions of the world; however, on the whole all regions have experienced declines in ARPU over the past few years. While the emerging markets are a growth area for mobile services, the ARPU from these markets is low compared with the developed markets. In 2008 overall mobile ARPU levels are expected to decline by at least another 4%. ARPU from mobile voice services has been particularly affected by cuts to tariff rates and the trend towards voice-data substitution. While voice still makes up the majority of mobile traffic, mobile data now contributes around 10% of global mobile ARPU. For more information, see chapter 1.3, page 9.

Operators still struggle to acquire satisfactory ARPU from prepaid mobiles, despite its popularity. Prepaid mobiles now account for more than 60% of the worldwide mobile subscriber base and continue to grow by around 60% per annum. The prepaid model has taken off around most of the world with many countries seeing an ongoing high level of growth. The emerging markets in particular favour prepaid mobile phones, with some markets having over 80% penetration of prepaid compared with the contract segment. For more information, see chapter 1.4.2.1, page 17.

With more competitors entering the market, mobile communications is rapidly becoming a commodity. Companies that will be able to develop interesting new business models on top of the mobile infrastructure will be much better positioned to entice the end-users. Despite evidence that some MVNOs around the world are struggling, in our opinion MVNOs can still play an important role in the telco industry as long as the business models are changed. MVNOs that are able to focus on customer service and branding will be in a prime position to develop these new business models. For more information, see chapter 2, page 21.

With everyone vying for new revenue streams, network operators are looking to attract customers from outside the established wireless market. Given the right regulatory and pricing conditions, mobile operators can compete directly with carriers by offering fixed services over their wireless networks. Neither fixed nor mobile operators can afford to develop their services in isolation any longer; unified services benefit all sides of the industry. Fixed mobile convergence has become a major goal of operators, but it also stands in opposition to a related trend, and goal, of mobile operators: fixed-to-mobile substitution. While the total number of fixed phone lines in the world is still increasing slowly, wireless is growing much more quickly. In Finland in particular, 90% of all voice calls are expected to originate from a mobile phone in 2008; interestingly the Finnish market also has some of the cheapest mobile call charges in the world. Mobile phone usage is also attributed to the increase in overall voice traffic in Western Europe. For more information, see chapter 3, page 28.

In 2008 GSM technologies account for around 85% of the world’s digital mobile phones, the equivalent of over 2.6 billion users. This market share is expected to grow even more due to increasing mobile penetration in the developing markets. With GSM being the leader in terms of 2G, the focus of the CDMA camp has turned to 3G which includes the technologies that bridge the gap to 3G (CDMA 2000) and its 3G successor CDMA2000 1x EV-DO. However, WCDMA technologies currently account for the majority of all 3G subscriptions worldwide. For more information, see chapter 4, page 38.

Short range wireless technology has revolutionised the personal connectivity market by providing freedom from wired connections. The installed base of Bluetooth devices has passed the 1 billion mark and there is some evidence that growth is beginning to slow. Despite this, it continues to be widely adopted throughout the telecommunications, IT and home entertainment industries, as well as such diverse areas as automotive and health care, reaching almost all sectors of the economy. UWB however has the potential to be faster than Bluetooth and despite the absence of a global standard, manufacturers, including Dell have started to ship the first UWB-enabled laptop computers. For more information, see chapter 4.4, page 62.

This report provides an insight and analysis into the trends and developments taking place in the mobile communications sector. Mobile data is covered in detail in a separate annual publication. The report comprises a global overview of the progress of mobile technologies and subscribers, including 3G. Statistics on ARPU, mobile revenue, call charges and prepaid are included as well as information on spectrum developments, termination fees, roaming and mobile number portability. Developments at a regional level are also provided for North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. The report contains BuddeComm’s analyses of the current and future mobile sector. For more information, see chapter 5, page 71.

Key highlights:

  • In terms of 3G, CDMA 2000 1x EV-DO captures around 36% of the market, compared with WCDMA with over 60%.
  • Data applications were the main source of growth for mobile satellite services in 2007. For more information, see chapter 4.5, page 70.
  • International roaming charges are beginning to decline and the cost of making and receiving calls while abroad is becoming cheaper, particularly in Europe. For more information, see chapter 5.1.2, page 72.
  • Worldwide over 60% of mobile subscribers use prepaid.
  • With subscriber penetration levels reaching 83% by early 2008, the US carriers and particularly the MVNOs are increasingly offering prepaid plans to attract the remaining 20% of non-subscribers. For more information, see chapter 7.1.1, page 86.
  • Despite the publicised problems experienced by some MVNOs, there is growth head for this market and BuddeComm sees MVNOs still playing an important role in the telco industry - as long as business models are changed.
Worldwide MVNO subscribers - 2005 - 2006; 2008; 2011
Region 2005 2006 2008 (e) 2011 (e)
MVNO subscribers (million)
Worldwide 55 85 107 126
(Source: BuddeComm, 2008)

There are now more than a quarter of a billion mobile subscribers in Africa.
In South Africa, mobile data revenue now accounts for close to 10% of total mobile revenues. For more information, see chapter 7.4.1, page 100.
Despite subscriber growth continuing at close to double-digit figures in 2007, Canada’s wireless penetration still lingers amongst the lowest in the OECD. For more information, see chapter 7.1.2, page 87.

1. Global Mobile Market Overview
1.1 Mobile market analysis
1.1.1 Introduction
1.1.2 The start of the mobile revolution?
1.1.3 Data is the future
1.1.4 All roads lead to 4G
1.2 Mobile subscriber statistics
1.2.1 Subscriber growth
1.2.2 2007-2008 published statistics and forecasts
1.2.3 The effect of taxes on mobile subscription
1.3 Mobile revenue, ARPU and call charges
1.3.1 Mobile usage and call charges overview
1.3.2 Overview of global ARPU developments
1.3.3 Mobile ARPU statistics & forecasts
1.3.4 Mobile revenue growth and CAPEX forecast
1.4 Mobile prepaid
1.4.1 Prepaid mobile services
1.4.2 Prepaid trends and developments
1.4.3 Prepaid mobile statistics and forecasts
1.4.4 Mandatory registration
2. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
2.1 MVNO market in 2008
2.1.1 Definitions
2.1.2 Marketing considerations
2.1.3 MVNO developments - analysis
2.1.4 Key MVNO countries
2.1.5 Some MVNOs struggle to find value
2.1.6 Content-orientated MVNOs
2.1.7 MVNO subscribers and revenue
3. Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC)
3.1 FMC developments
3.1.1 Fixed-mobile convergence
3.1.2 Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance (FMCA)
3.1.3 FMC equipment market
3.1.4 IP convergence the future anyway - analysis
3.1.5 Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA)
3.1.6 Mobile - the missing link
3.1.7 New business models for mobile
4. Mobile Infrastructure
4.1 2G: CDMA, TDMA
4.1.1 Introduction
4.1.2 2G infrastructure
4.1.3 Moving into 3G
4.1.4 Other developments
4.1.5 Statistics and forecasts - CDMA technologies
4.2 2G: GSM
4.2.1 Introduction
4.2.2 GSM features and developments
4.3 3G and transition to 4G
4.3.1 The time for 3G has arrived, but no cheering from the operators
4.3.2 Published 3G statistics and forecasts
4.3.3 Analysis - hard realities of the mobile market
4.3.4 Brief case study - Hutchison 3
4.3.5 Analysis - 3G, still a way to go
4.3.6 Conclusion - the reality of 3G and mobile data
4.4 Bluetooth and UWB
4.4.1 Introduction: Bluetooth
4.4.2 Wibree
4.4.3 Ultra-Wideband UWB))
4.4.4 Bluetooth-UWB merger
4.4.5 Growth of Bluetooth - statistics & forecasts
4.4.6 Bluetooth technology
4.4.7 Application examples
4.4.8 Other developments
4.5 Mobile satellite networks
5. Mobile Competition and Regulations
5.1 Termination rates, roaming, Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
5.1.1 Introduction: mobile competition
5.1.2 Mobile Termination Rates (MTR)
5.1.3 Roaming
5.1.4 Number Portability (NP)
6. Mobile and Wireless Spectrum
6.1 Spectrum and the mobile market
6.1.1 Spectrum developments
6.1.2 Radio spectrum utilisation
6.1.3 Spectrum auctions
6.1.4 Developments in the US
6.1.5 Developments in Europe
6.1.6 Spectrum trading - analysis
7. Regional Overviews
7.1 North America
7.1.1 USA
7.1.2 Canada
7.2 Latin America
7.2.1 Mobile trends
7.2.2 Mobile statistics
7.2.3 Mobile forecasts
7.2.4 Mobile technologies
7.3 Europe
7.3.1 Overview
7.3.2 Investment forecasts
7.3.3 Revenue forecasts
7.3.4 Mobile statistics
7.3.5 Technology trends
7.4 Africa/Middle East
7.4.1 Africa
7.4.2 Middle East
7.5 Asia
7.5.1 Market overview
7.5.2 Regional characteristics
7.5.3 China and India
7.5.4 Growth drivers
7.5.5 Mobile data services
7.5.6 Third Generation (3G)
7.6 Pacific Region
7.6.1 Australia
7.6.2 New Zealand
7.6.3 South Pacific
7.6.4 Mobile market overview
8. Glossary of Abbreviations


List of Tables


Table 1 - Worldwide mobile subscribers and annual change - 1993 - 2008
Table 2 - Mobile subscribers by region - 1993 - 2007
Table 3 - Top 20 countries ranked by mobile penetration - 2004 - 2005; 2007
Table 4 - Worldwide mobile subscribers by technology - 2007; 2011
Table 5 - Worldwide mobile subscribers by technology - Q1 2007
Table 6 - Worldwide mobile phone penetration - 2008; 2011
Table 7 - Regional mobile subscribers’ CAGR - 2007 - 2011
Table 8 - Average time spent on mobile phones in the UK versus fixed - 2001; 2005
Table 9 - Average total daily use of fixed telephone in the UK versus mobile - 2006
Table 10 - Comparison charges for services basket in Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark, France and Great Britain - March 2007
Table 11 - Western Europe ARPU: monthly voice, non-voice & total mobile - 2006; 2012
Table 12 - Top 10 North American operators by ARPU - Q3 2007
Table 13 - Mobile ARPU for top 3 US companies - Q2 2006
Table 14 - Approximate monthly mobile ARPU of top 5 carriers and bottom 5 carriers worldwide - Q3 2006
Table 15 - Monthly mobile ARPU of selected US operators - Q1 2006
Table 16 - Top 10 operators worldwide with biggest decreases in annual mobile ARPU - Q1 2006
Table 17 - Worldwide mobile revenue and CAPEX - 2012
Table 18 - Prepaid market share in selected developing markets - 2008
Table 19 - Number of prepaid subscribers worldwide - 2006 - 2007
Table 20 - Top 10 operators by prepaid growth - Q3 2007
Table 21 - Top 10 operators by prepaid growth - Q3 2006
Table 22 - Prepaid penetration by region- 2006
Table 23 - Prepaid revenue estimates by region - 2005 - 2008
Table 24 - Virgin Mobile and Telmore MVNO subscribers - 2006
Table 25 - MVNO subscribers worldwide - 2005 - 2006; 2012
Table 26 - MVNO revenue worldwide - 2006; 2012
Table 27 - Mobile market share versus fixed - 1992 - 2003; 2006 - 2007
Table 28 - Worldwide subscribers - CDMA technologies - 2001 - 2007
Table 29 -CDMA subscribers versus other technologies - Q1 2007
Table 30 - Growth of GSM market - 1994; 1997; 1999 - 2001; 2003 - 2007
Table 31 - GSM technology subscribers by region - 2006 - 2007
Table 32 - Market share of 3G technologies - 2012
Table 33 - 3G worldwide subscribers by technology - 2006 - 2007
Table 34 - 3G subscriber forecasts (all technologies) - 2007; 2010
Table 35 - Growth of worldwide 3G subscribers - 2001 - 2007
Table 36 - Regional share of WCDMA subscribers - 2006
Table 37 - 3G spectrum licence cost per capita - 2000 - 2001
Table 38 - 3G infrastructure CAPEX - 2001 - 2006
Table 39 - Examples of Hutchison subscribers in 3G markets - 2005 - 2006
Table 40 - UWB-enabled devices in use - 2007; 2011
Table 41 - Installed base of Bluetooth devices worldwide - 2005; 2007; 2012
Table 42 - Wholesale revenues for MSS operators with satellites in orbit - 2005 - 2007
Table 43 - Mobile market share versus fixed - 1992 - 2003; 2006 - 2007
Table 44 - Historical Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) by Region - 2005
Table 45 - EU average mobile termination charges - 2004 - 2006
Table 46 - Average call charges abroad by region - 2007
Table 47 - European roaming charges - 2007 - 2009
Table 48 - Worldwide roaming revenue - 2006; 2011
Table 49 - Percentage of mobile numbers ported in selected countries - 2006
Table 50 - Overview of wireless subscribers in the USA - January 2008
Table 51 - Wireless subscribers in Canada - 1997 - 2007
Table 52 - Mobile subscribers and penetration in Latin America - 1998 - 2007
Table 53 - Mobile subscribers and penetration in Latin American countries - September 2007
Table 54 - Subscriber distribution in selected Latin American countries - 2005 - 2007
Table 55 - Forecast mobile subscriber penetration - weaker growth scenario in selected Latin American countries - 2007; 2012; 2017
Table 56 - Forecast mobile subscriber penetration - stronger growth scenario in selected Latin American countries - 2007; 2012; 2017
Table 57 - Market share of mobile technologies in Latin America - 2006 - 2007
Table 58 - Annualised European voice and data market growth - 2007
Table 59 - Voice market Europe - 2000; 2005; 2010
Table 60 - GSM price basket, selected European countries - 2006 - 2007
Table 61 - Voice and total mobile ARPU in Western Europe - 2006; 2012
Table 62 - Western Europe 3G subscribers - 2005 - 2008; 2010
Table 63 - Western Europe GSM subscribers - 1997 - 2008
Table 64 - Top 20 European nations by subscribers - Sept 2007
Table 65 - European mobile subscribers and penetration - 1997 - 2008
Table 66 - Top 10 European nations by penetration - 2005 - 2007
Table 67 - Fastest mobile growth by nation and annual change - 2004 - 2005; 2007
Table 68 - African mobile subscribers, growth, penetration and market base - 1998 - 2007
Table 69 - Top 10 African countries by annual growth in mobile subscribers - June 2007
Table 70 - Top 10 African countries by subscribers and penetration - June 2007
Table 71 - Mobile subscribers in Asia - 1990; 1995; 2000 - 2008
Table 72 - Mobile penetration in Asia - top 10 markets - 2007
Table 73 - Mobile growth rates in Asia - top 10 markets - 2007
Table 74 - Wireless Internet subscribers in Asia - 2007
Table 75 - 3G WCDMA subscriber growth in Asia - 2004 - 2007
Table 76 - Mobile subscribers by carrier in Australia - 1993 - 20081
Table 77 - Annual growth rate of mobile subscribers by carrier in Australia - 1993 - 20081
Table 78 - Mobile subscribers by 3G network operator in Australia - 2003 - 2008
Table 79 - Mobile services market revenue per major operator in Australia - 1993 - 20081
Table 80 - Blended ARPU per month by operator in Australia - 2003 - 2007
Table 81 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration in New Zealand - 1995 - 2009
Table 82 - Mobile subscribers per operator in New Zealand - 2001 - 2009
Table 83 - Mobile subscribers and penetration in selected South Pacific countries - July 2007
Exhibit 1 - Key applications from data pack users
Exhibit 2 - Growth drivers for prepaid mobiles in emerging markets
Exhibit 3 - Comparative characteristics of an MVNO
Exhibit 4 - Variables that affect MVNO development
Exhibit 5 - FMC services
Exhibit 6 - Growth inhibitors for FMC
Exhibit 7 - UMA examples from the telecoms industry - 2004 - 2007
Exhibit 8 -- Comparison of GSM, cdmaOne and TDMA market share
Exhibit 9 - TD-SCDMA technology
Exhibit 10 - Operators offering WorldMode - early 2008
Exhibit 11 - Description of R-UIM
Exhibit 12 - Frequency bands for GSM
Exhibit 13 - Phases of CAMEL standardisation
Exhibit 14 - Hutchison Whampoa international operations - 2006
Exhibit 15 - Top 3 Bluetoot applications - 2006
Exhibit 16 - Key considerations of number portability
Exhibit 17 - Countries with mobile numbering plans - January 2007
Exhibit 18 - What is spectrum?
Exhibit 19 - Frequency bands and symbols
Exhibit 20 - International frequency assignment plan - 2110 - 2450MHz bands (excerpts)
Exhibit 21 - Possible bands for future spectrum auctions
Exhibit 22 - African countries with more than one mobile network operator - 2007

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