Asian mobile subscriber growth begins to subside in larger markets. The focus of this report is on the operators within their individual national markets. 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 Asian 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.
The telecom market across Asia has an estimated total of 4 billion mobile subscribers by end 2016. This sector of the overall market continues to experience moderate growth however, in the more developed markets, growth is shifting away from a focus on subscriber numbers towards the expansion of new generation platforms and increased data usage driven by value added services and increased ARPUs.
Whilst there are still developing markets continuing to grow their mobile subscriber base at high annual rates, total market growth has eased considerably in the last few years. This is not surprising given that a significant number of markets have well and truly saturated over the last year or so. Macau is the leading country in Asia in terms of overall mobile penetration with a penetration of 326% in 2016. Hong Kong takes second place with mobile penetration of 227% in 2016. Maldives in third place has penetration of 220% followed by Kazakhstan in fourth spot with 180%. Singapore has the fifth largest market in terms of mobile penetration with penetration reaching 149% in 2016. Mobile broadband subscriptions are growing rapidly.
While mobile and fixed will always exist in parallel, there is no doubt that with a faltering fixed network and an excellent mobile network, mobile will give fixed a run for its money. However the reality for the success of mobile broadband is that the network will rely more and more on fibre. In the end most mobile stations will have to be connected to a fibre optic network in order to cope with the volume of traffic. Key highlights of the mobile operator market in Asia in 2016 include China leads the market in terms of total number of subscribers, with its mobile market reaching 1.32 billion subscribers by 2016.
India follows not far behind with 1.03 billion subscribers followed a lot further back by Indonesia (338 million), Japan (159 million) and Vietnam (145 million). China has three of the four top mobile operators in Asia by number of subscribers China Mobile (850 million), China Unicom (262 million) and China Telecom (215 million). India is also very active in the market with five of the top ten operators. The top three of which are Bharti (265 million), Vodafone Essar (198 million) and Idea Cellular (175 million). Indonesia and Thailand are the only other Asian counties with operators in the top 10 operators with Telkomsel of Indonesia having 154 million subscribers. And AIS of Thailand having 39 million subscribers.