Telegeography is calling the top of the trillion-dollar communications market, saying that traditional markets are saturated, and new growth must come mainly from Asia and Africa.
The market analyst made the call following publication of first quarter sales figures for communications companies. These showed a slowdown over the previous quarter, but low single digit growth over Q1 08, it said.
The top 20 global service providers generated $251bn in sales during the first three months of 2009, which was 3% up on Q1 08 but 1% down on Q4 08.
The top 10 telecoms technology suppliers generated sales of $59bn during the quarter. This was 5% down from Q1 08 and 15% down from the previous quarter.
Mobile phone carriers added 153 million new subscribers, but this was 10 million fewer than the previous quarter. Almost half the wireless subscriber growth came from India and China as growth slowed in many other markets. Countries like France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Ukraine and the UK were all essentially flat or down slightly, it said.
There were 14 million new broadband subscribers, in line with Q4 08 additions. China accounted for 30% of global growth, with the US the only other country to add more than one million subscribers in the quarter.
Telegeography said the global recession was affecting the market, but it still believed that the global telecoms service market was approaching saturation in many developed markets.
"Historic growth in this market has been over 6% but Telegeography forecasts that growth will decline to an average 3.5% over the next five years," the company said. It noted that the reported 3% growth included the fruits of mergers and acquisitions, and was not just organic growth. The best organic growth came from China Mobile, Vodafone and America Movil, it said.
Telegeography said sales of wireless and broadband services were "a bit on the soft side", but still showed "decent growth" despite the recession.
Telecoms equipment vendors had been hit hard by the "triple whammy" of lower spending by consumers, service providers and enterprises. Traditional suppliers like Nokia, Cisco, Motorola and Alcatel-Lucent were hardest hit, with Nortel dropping out of the Top 10 altogether, it said. But newcomers like Huawei, Samsung, RIM and LGE had some cause to be pleased, the analyst said.
Wireless Subscriber Growth, Q1 2009