According to The New York Times, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks are technically now the world's largest wireless operators thanks to the increasing number of carriers relying on the vendors for network management.
The two equipment vendors operate networks covering a combined 355 million customers worldwide. Indeed, Orange recently inked two deals with NSN for it to manage infrastructure resources in the UK and Spain for five years; and Vodafone recently signed a seven-year network management deal with Ericsson for its 2G and 3G networks in the UK.
The trend has not yet caught on in the US - at least not officially. In March, Swedish business weekly Affarsvarlden reported that Sprint Nextel and Ericsson signed a network outsourcing deal worth $2 billion, but neither company commented on the report.
Ericsson earned about $1.7 billion from its network management business last year, up 17 percent from a year earlier. That figure is 7 percent of the Ericsson's total revenue. NSN did not specify how much it made from network management operations.
- see this NYT article