The 10 Largest Telecom Companies in the World, and What They Do

The telecommunications industry continues to sit at the epicenter of innovation and disruption across the global economy. As mobile devices and high-speed internet connectivity become further embedded into every aspect of society, telecom providers enable advancements in areas like video streaming, IoT, 5G and mobile commerce.

The top telecom companies worldwide serve hundreds of millions of customers, invest billions in next-generation infrastructure, and generate upwards of $150-200 billion in annual revenues. This article profiles the 10 largest publicly-traded telecommunications corporations globally, unpacking their background, service portfolio, customer metrics and recent strategic initiatives driving growth. Analysis compares the players across key metrics, and the outlook examines where new opportunities exist amid trends like 5G and M2M communication.

10. Telefonica

Headquartered in Madrid, Spain, Telefonica serves over 330 million mobile, landline, broadband and TV customers in Europe and Latin America. 2020 revenues exceeded €43 billion. Originating from a state-owned monopoly, Telefonica began international expansion in 1990 and today operates in markets like Brazil, Mexico and Germany. Key brands include Movistar, O2 and Vivo.

Strategic priorities include fiber and 5G buildouts reaching up to 80 million additional premises by 2024. Telefonica Tech focuses next-gen capabilities in IoT, cloud, cybersecurity and big data. Recent partnerships with Microsoft Azure and Huawei underscore Telefonica‘s positioning around digital transformation and data analytics.

9. Orange

France-based Orange operates networks serving 257 million mobile and broadband subscribers across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. 2020 revenues topped €42 billion. Originally the state postal & telecommunications department, Orange (formerly France Telecom) launched mobile operations in 1994 and internet access in 1996.

In addition to consumer offerings, Orange Business Services caters advanced data solutions to multinational enterprises. Fiber investments continue boosting ultra-fast connectivity in France and Spain, while mobile financial services innovations like Orange Bank illustrate leveraging telecom infrastructure for emerging digital needs. Orange owns extensive subsea cable network infrastructure linking global regions.

7. China Telecom

As a state-owned telecom leader in China, China Telecom amassed 194 million fixed-line, 113 million broadband and 215 million mobile subscribers by end of 2020. Revenues reached $46 billion, though lag domestic rivals China Mobile and China Unicom.

Founded in 2002 upon restructuring monopoly China Telecommunications Corporation, China Telecom continues sizable CAPEX outlays to enhance 5G and cloud offerings domestically. However share gains prove challenging given dominance of larger peer operators, prompting slashed earnings forecasts in 2021 amid rising competition for industrial digitalization projects. Nonetheless favorable industry dynamics provide growth runways.

6. Softbank Telecom

Japanese telecom innovator SoftBank operates leading mobile networks focused on Japan, United States subsidiary Sprint along with stakes in carriers like T-Mobile US, China‘s Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. The 1981-founded group posted revenues topping $56 billion in 2020, including Sprint.

Iconic founder Masayoshi Son pioneered the mobile internet in Japan and expanded via acquisitions abroad over the 2000s decade. Softbank Group has evolved an expansive investment portfolio backing leading startups globally in segments like e-commerce, fintech and ridesharing, alongside telecom. Recent efforts target turning around Sprint performance while developing cutting-edge future networks.

5. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT)

Japan telecom leader NTT serves upwards of 60 million mobile subscribers and 25 million fiber broadband households domestically, registering consolidated revenues equating $108 billion for the 2020 fiscal year ending March 2021.

Originally the state monopoly, NTT privatization began in 1985 to foster competition. Today NTT Group dominates Japan‘s market despite inroads from Softbank and Rakuten Mobile, owning topco holding company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, wireless arm NTT DoCoMo and IT services unit NTT DATA. 5G and smart city projects highlight group R&D while global expansion focuses enterprises via NTT DATA.

4. Deutsche Telekom

German telecom incumbent Deutsche Telekom amassed 2020 full-year revenues of €101 billion including United States subsidiary T-Mobile US. Serving 225 million mobile customers and 24 million broadband lines in Europe alone, Deutsche Telekom ranks among the Continental leaders.

Founded in 1996 upon deregulation of state monopoly Deutsche Bundespost, Deutsche Telekom AG commenced selling T-Mobile units abroad during the 2000s, retaining stakes offering control benefits. Today the group balances retail and business services across fixed and mobile, while growing U.S. subsidiary T-Mobile drives increasing profits through 5G-enabled offerings chasing mobile share gains domestically.

3. China Mobile

Backed by over 950 million customers at year-end 2020, China Mobile stands tallest among Chinese state-backed telecom operators from both subscriber and revenue metrics perspective. Its successful 4G network catapulted China Mobile to grow its $107 billion top line by 6.7% last year, while next-gen 5G rollout aims to lock in high-value consumers and industries at favorable ARPU rates.

China Mobile accounts approximately 60% Chinese mobile subscriptions, though faces margin pressures from rivals cutting rates while heavy 5G deployment costs weigh short-term profitability. Nonetheless the monopoly-like dominance across China ensures sustained leadership, especially benefitting from mobile advancements suiting densely populated cities. Partnerships with Apple and Chinese phone vendors boost premium subscriber focus.

2. Verizon Communications

U.S. telecom behemoth Verizon posted 2020 revenues rising 4% annually to surpass $128 billion last year thanks firstly to leading wireless performance (72 million subscribers), along with growth from fiber-based broadband and 5G business services. Additionally Verizon Media Group governs content plays.

Originally one of the Baby Bell ILECs, Verizon Communications formed in 2000 by merging Bell Atlantic, GTE and early mobile network Vodafone Airtouch to create an integrated telco giant covering all major service categories. Decades of M&A enabled Verizon to systematically assemble assets enabling coast-to-coast convergence. New CEO Hans Vestberg doubles down on next-gen network leadership to drive America‘s highest mobile service revenues.

1. AT&T

Despite conceding its longstanding position as world‘s top telecom by revenues to Verizon, U.S. conglomerate AT&T still constitutes the globe‘s premier integrated player when considering its 167 million combined wireless and broadband connections in America plus leading pay-TV footprint via DirecTV and U-Verse IPTV. Mexico and emerging Latin markets provide additional upside.

Originally the Bell System monopoly corporation, 1984 breakup eventually rebranded local carriers like Southwestern Bell as today‘s AT&T whilst birthing mobile history as BellSouth Mobility in 1990s. Acquisitions this century unified holdings under modern AT&T branding, though content M&As distracted focus until recently after WarnerMedia spin-off. Now AT&T spotlights network investments and customer expansion offering extensive bundling capabilities post-convergence.

Industry Leader Scorecard

CompanyMarket Cap2020 RevenuesWireless SubsBroadband Subs
America Movil$49B$49B277MN.A.
China Mobile$135B$107B950MN.A.

Surging Data Demand Underpins Continued Success

As network connectivity permeates deeper across various life and business spheres globally, demand trends point towards sustained growth in telecom, especially mobile data. 5G promises faster speeds while expanding addressable market use cases. Meanwhile fixed telecom maintains integral roles delivering ultra high-speed internet backbone enabling emerging capabilities in cloud software, streaming video, IoT gadgets and omnichannel customer experiences.

The largest telecom companies like AT&T and China Mobile seem positioned to leverage their customer scale and infrastructure foundations to both maximize 5G mobile monetization and expand enterprise solution relationships as more industries digitally transform. However regulators may pressure competitiveness in various markets, opening doors for more competition. Upstarts like Dish Network in America and Rakuten Mobile in Japan aim to disrupt the status quo with software-based network models and aggressive subscriber acquisition goals.

Did you like those interesting facts?

Click on smiley face to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

      Interesting Facts
      Login/Register access is temporary disabled