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Chinese Telecom Market Rising to the Top

As you may recall, China surpassed the U.S. in total DSL broadband subscribers last year. Now according to Pyramid Research, China Mobile became the most valuable listed mobile operator with the world's largest subscriber base in 2006, moving ahead of UK-based Vodafone Group Plc, which had previously held the crown.

China Mobile closed the third quarter of 2006 with more than 287 million subscribers in China, while Vodafone reported a total of nearly 192m across its properties around the world.

China Mobile's move into the top spot further illustrates where to expect the next billionth customer. Of the 472 million new subscribers in 2006, 87 percent come from emerging markets -- developing markets in Asia account for 44 percent of all new customers, and Africa/Middle East is estimated to have 2.4 times as many new subscribers as Western Europe.

The pattern holds true for the next five years -- emerging markets will attract more than a billion new customers between 2007 and 2011, whereas operators in mature markets will add about 190 million new subscribers.

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