View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. Technology
  2. Data Centre
June 27, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:27pm

Who are the world’s largest mobile network operators?

The run-down of the biggest players in the mobile space.

By Vinod

Mobile phones have quickly become a key part of our everyday lives, letting us communicate, listen to music, surf the Internet, and even fall in love. But often we forget about the companies who supply our networks – unless it’s to complain about poor coverage or high bills. Mobile networks have become hugely profitable over the last few decades, so here is a run-down of the biggest players in the world…

10. China Telecom

With 185m subscribers, China Telecom is the country’s third largest mobile provider, and is also China’s largest fixed line provider. Founded in 2002, it also has the largest Wi-Fi network in China, rolling out over a million access points to more than 30,000 buildings and facilities in over 250 major Chinese cities.

9. VimpelCom

One of Europe’s largest mobile providers, Netherlands-based VimpelCom has operations across the continent. With 209m current subscribers across 20 countries, the company enjoys particular success in Russia, where it was one of the first mobile carriers, and Italy with its Beeline and Wind brands respectively.

8. Orange

Content from our partners
Rethinking cloud: challenging assumptions, learning lessons
DTX Manchester welcomes leading tech talent from across the region and beyond
The hidden complexities of deploying AI in your business

French operator Orange is best known in the UK for its EE network, formed with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile brand, which currently offers the widest 4G network in the country. The company has 231.5m subscribers worldwide, with operations in Europe, Asia, North American and South America.

7. Axiata

Part-owned by the Malaysian government, Axiata is one of Asia’s leading telecoms companies, with 239.7m mobile subscribers across the continent, including operations in Malysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

6. Telefónica

Spanish operator Telefónica boasts 25.47m subscribers worldwide thanks to its popularity across several continents. It enjoys great success in South and Latin America through its Movistar brand, and also operates the O2 network across the UK and Ireland.

5. América Móvil

Owned by one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim, América Móvil dominates much of the Latin American, Caribbean and South American markets, providing services to 269.9m mobile subscribers in 18 countries, and last year gained $58.9bn in revenues.

4. Airtel

Asides from China, India is seen as the biggest mobile market in the world, expanding every year as more and more people in the country get connected. Airtel is India’s biggest mobile network, with 275m subscribers across India, Africa and South Asia, as it is also the second-largest fixed-telecoms provider in the subcontinent.



3. China Unicom

The second Chinese network on this list, China Unicom has 285.7m subscribers across the world. It is partly owned by Telefónica following the signing of a strategic investment signed between the two companies in 2011, which has seen over $1.5bn committed so far.

2. Vodafone

With 419.4m subscribers, Vodafone is the world’s second-largest mobile provider and the only British representative in the top 10. It operates networks in 21 countries, with partner networks in an additional 40 markets, employing 91,000 workers worldwide.

1. China Mobile

Given the sheer size of its potential customer base, it’s perhaps no surprise that China has three companies on this list, including the biggest in the world. Government-controlled China Mobile boasts 775.6m subscribers according to recent figures, with its userbase swelled by the fact that it is the only licensed operator in the country to sell Apple’s iPhones to a young and affluent field of consumers.



Websites in our network
Select and enter your corporate email address Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
  • CIO
  • CTO
  • CISO
  • CSO
  • CFO
  • CDO
  • CEO
  • Architect Founder
  • MD
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Other
Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.