2009 may have seen most of the world in the depths of a recession, but in some ways the global telecoms market seemed to shrug it off. During the twelve months ending September, wireless and fixed broadband subscribers grew by 15-16%, which was only 1% off the longer-term subscriber growth trend. TeleGeography thoroughly reviewed its five-year subscriber forecasts, and despite the 1% reduction in 2009 growth rate it saw no reason to make any radical changes to its global 2013 forecast numbers. The main engines for subscriber growth remain India, China and a handful of other rapidly emerging markets.
Service provider revenues tell a different story. During the same twelve-month period service providers saw their aggregated telecom service revenues grow by just 1.5% in real terms (which equates to a decline if translated into USD due to moves in exchange rates). This is a substantially lower growth rate than originally forecast, and TeleGeography estimates that the impact of the recession was to reduce the annual growth rate for 2009 by around 2.5% - equating to some USD40 billion in lost revenue opportunity during the year.
The impact of this drop-off in growth rate was by no means a global phenomenon, and most of the pain was felt in Western Europe, with North America and Eastern Europe being impacted to a lesser extent. Other regions were mostly unscathed; the biggest story there was revenue shortfall due to overly aggressive price-based competition for low-revenue subscribers in India and some other large emerging markets.