Global Wireless Growth Is Slowing

Wireless subscription growth slowed to 3 percent in the most recent quarter, down from about 5 percent during the same period a year ago, according to research firm TeleGeography. The analyst firm found that just 130 million people became new subscribers around the world in the second quarter of 2009. When compared with the decrease in the amount of money a subscriber pays each month, a figure that’s also been declining, such growth was barely enough to sustain carriers’ revenue.

However, there are 4.3 billion wireless subscribers in the world and a few bright spots, notably in China, India, Brazil and Russia, where 15 of 17 the top fastest-growing carriers are located. Of the national service providers with the highest quarterly growth in wireless subscribers, three of the top 10 are in China and five are in India. China Mobile is on top followed by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Reliance.

On an annual basis, global wireless subscriber growth has gradually tailed off, reaching just 20 percent in 2008, a figure TeleGeography says may fall as low as 14 percent in 2009. Beyond that, it expects growth rates to begin to decline, but the world is on track to have 6 billion wireless subscribers by mid-to-late 2013. Knowing that the market for selling phones to people is becoming saturated, carriers are doing their best to sell data for other devicesfrom notebooks to picture frames.