Telecommunications networks are vital infrastructure for consumers and organizations worldwide. The pace of innovation and development in a given region or sector is often tied to the health of local telecommunications networks, with digital transformation driving an increased dependency on speed and reliability. In order to meet these demands, network operators are looking to the deployment of next-generation networks.
The rollout of 5G has been a core focus in the mobile sector, with the development of 6G technology progressing alongside. Meanwhile, fiber-optic networks are delivering high-speed internet to fixed broadband customers in many markets. The scale and cost of delivering these networks has prompted shifts in the global market, with regulators looking to rethink restrictions on large-scale mergers, while also considering plans to require big tech firms to contribute to network costs.
Strong growth in the global telecommunications market is expected in 2023, with a forecast 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars to be spent worldwide. This represents a 2.8 percent increase on the estimated spend for 2022. The reliability of telecoms services has become increasingly important in an era of flexible working, with organizations and governments recognizing the value of telecoms investment in the digital economy.
Mobile operators focus on 5G
Forecast number of mobile 5G subscriptions worldwide by region from 2019 to 2028 (in millions)
The market can be broadly split into mobile and fixed-line communications. The fixed-line segment includes fixed broadband services, with a particular focus on the deployment of fiber-optic broadband, though also includes fixed-line voice services. The mobile segment concerns all aspects of mobile communications, including mobile data services. There has been a strong focus on the rollout of 5G, with the number of 5G subscriptions worldwide set to double between 2022 and 2024.
5G technology unlocks new possibilities
Size of 5G technology market worldwide in 2020 and 2026 (in billion U.S. dollars)
5G has dominated the industry in recent years. Spectrum auctions are either underway or have already been finalized in many markets. 5G-enabled devices are widely available and making their way into the hands of consumers, and businesses are exploring ways to make the most of the new broadband standard in the coming years. Indeed, 5G is opening new opportunities across industry sectors, ranging from self-driving vehicles to cloud gaming.
China Mobile is the largest firm by market cap
Leading telecommunications companies worldwide 2023, by market capitalization (in billion U.S. dollars)
Strong competition is a feature of telecoms markets across the globe. Beijing-based China Mobile is the largest telecoms company by market capitalization, while US firm AT&T reported the highest annual revenue in the industry in 2022. In many markets, mobile virtual network operators resell network capacity purchased from larger operators, offering customers a wide variety of specialized packages and services.
Unique aspect of the industry
Disparity remains in mobile internet penetration
Mobile internet penetration worldwide in 2022, by region
Global internet penetration rates have improved across the globe as expanding infrastructure has brought more of world’s population online. Despite this, there remains a great disparity in access between regions. For example, in 2022, only 23 percent of those in sub-Saharan Africa had access to mobile internet, compared to 55 percent worldwide. For many, this is not due to a lack of mobile network coverage, but instead due to barriers such as affordability and a lack of digital literacy.
State of the industry
The telecommunications sector covers the companies and regulatory authorities that provide the services and infrastructure required to transmit signals, messages, and data. Primarily, this includes fixed-line and mobile internet and telephony services.