The fourth quarter of 2010 saw a net increase of 196 million mobile subscribers across the world, beating the previous record of just under 190 million new subscribers set in Q4 2007. It is typical to see a substantial uptick in subscriber growth during the final three months of a year, but the size of this figure provides a pleasant boost to the wireless industry, whose growth had been somewhat constrained by the global recession. In aggregate, mobile subscribers grew by almost 690 million globally in 2010, to over 5.3 billion.
India was one of the main drivers of the record quarterly increase; even by its outsized standards of growth, the final quarter of the year was exceptional. India's mobile operators added 63 million subscribers in the three-month period – a number which exceeds the total subscriber count in either France, Spain, or South Korea. China was once again the country with the second largest subscriber increase, but the number of mobile subscribers in India is rapidly catching up with China. While mobile subscribers in India grew by 42% in 2010, China's mobile base grew by just 14%, and there is now just a 90 million gap between the two countries.
The next highest ranked countries for subscriber growth in the fourth quarter were Brazil, Indonesia, The United Sates, Nigeria, and Egypt. While Asia and other rapidly developing economies continue to drive wireless subscriber growth, the end of 2010 also saw trend-beating growth in some mature markets – including Germany, France and Mexico. 'This was a stand-out quarter for the industry,' said TeleGeography’s Mark Gibson. 'While the overall growth rate is declining as more wireless markets edge closer to maturity, the increase of almost 200 million subscribers in one quarter suggests that plenty of exciting business development opportunities remain. We project that the number of global wireless subscribers will top seven billion at the end of 2014.'