Market Overview: Asia Mobile Operators And MVNOs Industry Analysis

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Across Asia a total of around 3.8 billion mobile subscribers were being served by a large number of mobile operators heading into 2016. The operators are continuing to drive the market, expanding it by between 5% and 10% annually at the moment. Whilst the overall growth rate in the region has moderated the sheer numbers are impressive. This market report presents a wide-ranging review, providing details on around almost 200 of the mobile operators to be found in Asia in 2015.

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The list of operators ranges from the giant China Mobile with more than 800 million subscribers right through to a number of much smaller operators with only a few thousand subscribers each. And of course there are the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). BuddeComm’s overview of mobile operators in the region does not claim to present an exhaustive list of the licensed operators but it is truly indicative of the breadth and variety of operators to be found in the region. It also reflects the highly commercial and competitive nature of the mobile sector in this region.

The focus of this report is on the operators within the individual national markets. Of course, in addition to these individual operators there are those companies such as SingTel, Vodafone, and Axiata (formerly Telekom Malaysia International) that have built a substantial presence around the region beyond their own domestic market through their shareholdings in operators in multiple other markets. While this aspect of the regional operations is not discussed in any detail, it is mentioned in passing in the relevant country reviews.

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In table below the top 15 operators in Asia are shown ranked by subscribers as of end-2014. The table also shows the available subscriber numbers for 2015. It is noted that of the region’s operators these 15 (as listed in the table) have a combined share of 70% of the total regional mobile subscriber base. In other words, less than 10% of the total number of operators in the regional market control 70% of the total subscriber base. This list of top operators has remained relatively stable over the last year or so, with few changes to the leading group. 

While the overall regional growth rate has eased considerably in the last few years, there are still some countries (and therefore operators) with growth rates well in excess of the regional average. Then of course there are the various growth patterns within the overall subscriber numbers. In this respect, the phenomenal growth of mobile broadband must be mentioned. Operators across the region have been responding to the huge demand for mobile broadband access.