Smartphones drive the market, feature phones still play a role
The majority of mobile phone subscriptions are held by smartphone users. As of 2021, there were 6.38 billion active smartphone subscriptions, a figure that is expected to reach 7.52 billion by 2026. Samsung has been the leading global smartphone vendor since 2011, with the larger range of devices across various price points driving sales. Apple, OPPO and Xiaomi consistently make up the rest of the leading vendors.
Feature phones still play a prominent role in enabling mobile communications for those who do not have access to or choose not to purchase a smartphone. In the African mobile market, vendors shipped 29.9 million feature phones during the first quarter of 2021, more than the total number of smartphones. In Europe and North America, HMD leads the feature phone market, with a market share of 38 percent in Europe and 35 percent in North America as of the third quarter of 2021.
5G to usher in the next era of mobile communications
5G has been the focus for many in the mobile communications industry for the past several years. Fast speeds and lower latency will drive the development of new use cases for mobile communications, for personal and professional users alike. 5G subscriptions are already gathering pace around the world, reaching around 577 million subscriptions in 2021. The vast majority of these — almost 450 million subscriptions — are in North-East Asia. By 2025, 5G connections are expected to account for the majority of connections in many markets, including China, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, and South Korea.
Beyond faster downloads, the potential of 5G to improve efficiency in industries such as manufacturing is expected to bring significant economic benefits. The 5G technology market alone could potentially reach 620 billion U.S. dollars in value by 2030. The use of 5G across healthcare, smart utilities, and consumer and media applications is expected to contribute 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars to global GDP, while close to 23 million new jobs are expected to become available along the 5G value chain by 2035.
A market characterized by larger players
Giant telecom multinational companies dominate the mobile communication industry. AT&T is the largest telecommunications provider by revenue, bringing in more close to 169 billion U.S. dollars in 2021. China Mobile Limited is the largest employer in the telecommunications sector, employing approximately 454 thousand people as of 2020.
The massive revenues and profile of the companies create a high brand value. The most valuable telecommunication brands worldwide are AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, Xfinity, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom. Two American companies lead the rank; AT&T with a brand value of around 115 billion U.S. dollars, followed by Verizon, which is valued at about 89 billion U.S. dollars.