The world's largest operators struggled with flat revenues in Q1 despite strong subscriber growth, according to TeleGeography.
Wireless subscribers for the top 30 service providers grew by 161 million during the quarter, a 3.5% increase on the end of 2009, the research firm said.
Fixed broadband lines grew by a more modest 14 million, but crunching the numbers this still represents 2.8% growth.
The country with the highest mobile subscriber growth was unsurprisingly India, followed by China and Indonesia. China led by broadband customer adds, followed by the US. Around 70% of total new subscribers came from the APAC region.
No European country made it into the top 10 for either category. Western Europe saw a decline in its wireless subscriber base for the first ever time, but continued to see substantial broadband subscriber growth.
Despite strong global subscriber growth, there was “not a lot for CFOs and investors to cheer about” regarding the Q1 results, TeleGeography said.
The top 30 operators earned a combined $300 billion (€246.4 billion) This is an increase of only 1.1% year-on-year, and even this small growth was entirely achieved through M&A activities. Barring acquisitions, revenues were flat.
The seasonal decline in Q1 revenues was also more severe this year, with revenue declining 2.1% quarter-on-quarter.
These factors can be reconciled by the fact that the strongest subscriber growth is happening in countries where ARPU is low, and competition is only pushing tariffs even lower.
While India is seeing phenomenal wireless subscriber growth, not a single Indian operator appears on the list of the top 30 operators by revenue, Telegeography said.
“Revenue growth will not return to the global market until companies start to compete on factors other than pricing,” it said.