China to power North Asia's 1B mobile subs

Mobile subscriptions in the region will cross 1 billion in 2009, with the Chinese market accounting for 80 percent of users, new report reveals.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

The number of mobile users in North Asia will grow 15.5 percent over 2008 to cross 1 billion this year, raking in an estimated US$183 billion in service revenues, according to a new report.

Released Friday, Frost & Sullivan's study of five markets--China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan--forecasted that the region's mobile subscriptions will grow at a six-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7 percent to reach 1.37 billion in 2014. The market analyst expects the corresponding mobile services revenue for that year to register nearly US$230 billion, representing a CAGR of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2014.

In 2008, the five North Asian markets achieved a year-on-year subscriber growth of 10.1 percent to reach 878.1 million users--nearly half of the total subscriptions in 18 markets across the Asia-Pacific region.

2008 mobile usage in North Asia
MarketMobile usersMobile penetration
China687.2 million51.6 percent
Hong Kong9.3 million133.2 percent
Japan110.4 million86.5 percent
South Korea45.6 million94 percent
Taiwan25.6 million110.9 percent
Source: Frost & Sullivan

China, which has the lowest mobile penetration of the five markets, is expected to account for 80 percent of the region's subscriptions in 2009.

According to Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst Jeff Teh, the fast-growing mobile market in China is also expected to account for the bulk of the North Asia's growth going forward--in terms of both subscribers and revenues. "With a mobile penetration rate of just 51.6 percent in 2008, China remains the largest and one of the fastest-growing mobile services market in the world," he pointed out.

Mobile operators in China are expected to achieve billings of US$85.7 billion by the end of 2009, and close out 2014 with revenues of US$132.6 billion based on a six-year CAGR, or 13 percent. By 2014, the country will have some 1.15 billion subscribers, said Frost & Sullivan.

The picture, however, was less rosy for the other four markets due to "intense price competition", noted Teh. As such, operator revenues in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan will grow at a CAGR of less than 1 percent during the same period.

New subscriptions will not account much for growth in the four markets. Data usage, driven by mobile broadband and 3G service uptake, will fare slightly better. "The primary challenge for operators here would be to differentiate their services to maintain average subscriber revenue and manage churn," he said.

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