Global Wireless Growth Slowing


From a global perspective, wireless growth of total active subscribers increased 17% in 2005 compared to 35% in 2004, based on Fitch’s Global Wireless Review special report. Fitch expects that the trend for slowing total subscriber growth will continue until a potential boost from high-speed wireless data applications associated with third-generation infrastructure and handsets are more widely available.

In a regional comparison, Latin America has shown the largest percentage of subscriber growth in Fitch’s study increasing 33% in 2005 compared to approximately 17% for Asia/Pacific, 15% for the United States/Canada and 9% for Europe. It should be noted that the Asia/Pacific region contributed nearly half of all the total subscriber additions in 2005, with China as the single largest individual country contributor at nearly 27% of total aggregate subscriber additions.

Prepaid subscriber additions continue to out-pace postpaid additions representing approximately 56% of total wireless subscribers in 2005 compared to 52% in 2004. Fitch expects this trend to continue due to the strong growth being generated from countries with high prepaid percentages such as Mexico, Indonesia and China, to name a few. The key to prepaid growth in some markets is the existence of a combination of factors such as calling party pays, high fixed line costs or low availability of fixed lines and low cost prepaid plans. These factors create a strong substitution impact of wireline by wireless.

Data average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to be a strong future growth driving force for the industry. Many Asia/Pacific countries have very high percentages of ARPU represented by non-voice services. Of particular note, Japan has a data contribution of USD16, or approximately 25% of ARPU in comparison to 13% for the U.K. and 10% for the U.S. Data revenues should continue to show strong growth as more third-generation data applications and devices penetrate the market.