Asia will be home to more than half of the world's mobile subscribers come 2013, but average revenues will lag behind, according to Ovum analysts.
Steven Hartley, senior analyst at Ovum, said in a statement, the next five years will see a steady shift in the global mobile subscriber base to the emerging markets as these countries develop.
Globally, Ovum expects the number of mobile connections to jump by 43 percent by 2013.
This boom is led by India and China in Asia, which--together with Bangladesh--will power 77 percent of the connections growth in the region.
Hartley noted that the impressive figures forecast for the two Asian giants were not "overly bullish" in light of the countries' expected population growth. "They are quite simply extraordinarily large markets with rapidly growing populations," he said.
He qualified this by saying mobile penetration for the region covering India, China and Bangladesh is forecast at a mere 6.7 percent in 2013.
The number of mobile users in the Asia-Pacific region including China and India is forecast to more than double from 1.4 billion in 2007 to 2.9 billion in 2013.
This will tip Asia's contribution to global mobile penetration over the halfway mark. Fellow Ovum analyst, Nathan Burley, said in a separate report: "By 2011, Asia will be home to more than half of the world's mobile connections."
According to Ovum figures, the most highly-penetrated regions of North America and Europe accounted for 33 percent of connections in 2007, but will only hit 24 percent come 2013.
Subscribers up, but average revenues down
Although subscriber numbers are on the rise, the lower price packages paid by the new subscribers from developing countries means average revenues per user (ARPU) will keep going down, said both analysts.
Hartley said the total service revenues to operators globally are forecast at US$1.1 trillion in 2013, up 23 percent from 2008.
However, this is a significantly lower growth rate than the 43 percent jump in connections, he said.
"It is clear that operators seeking connections growth will need to ensure that they can survive on very low ARPU... The critical need for efficiency among the global players is paramount," said Hartley.
Burley said: "Despite housing more than half world connections, lower ARPU across Asia will mean the region still accounts for less than a third of industry revenue by 2013."
The shifting focus to the emerging markets means voice will remain "crucial" for operators, with users in these markets relying heavily on voice as a basic technology compared to data. Voice is expected to contribute 73 percent of global revenues in 2013, and will dominate the more mature markets of Europe and North America too, said Hartley.
"With all the excitement surrounding mobile data, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that communication is still the 'killer application' for the telecoms industry," he said.