Global Mobile: Applications and Innovations for the Worldwide Mobile Ecosystem

Chapter Contribution: Competition and the Evolution of Mobile Markets

Over the course of the last decade, mobile communications has become an essential part of the global fabric of evolution. With almost 70% global subscription penetration as of 2010, mobility is being embedded into almost every facet of our lives. Mobility is also spreading across verticals whether it is m-pesa in Kenya or SMS based counterfeit medicine detection in Ghana or paying for your coffee using your NFC enabled mobile phone in a Tokyo café or watching the cricket world cup broadcast while hiking the Yangtze river near Tibet. Consumers expect access to information everywhere they are and the ecosystem is responding with continued innovation, which has become extremely critical in managing the competitiveness of nations.

It is also apparent that some of the innovation and market dynamics has been evidenced by the competitiveness of these markets at different levels – network, devices, and services. While the market entry conditions into the devices and software services markets have gone through significant overhaul this last decade, the competitiveness framework of the mobile networks has been more structured and controlled in many instances.

Given the importance of the mobile network infrastructure to every nation’s competitiveness, security, and productivity, it is useful to understand how the “competitive mobile markets” are formed. In theory, the perfectly competitive markets are in the best interest of the consumers as they provide the best value given the competitive dynamics and the equilibrium provides good checks and balances for the ecosystem.

The global mobile networks have shown a remarkable adherence to the “Rule of Three” which states that in any mature industry, 3 top players dominate the market. Sometimes it has been dictated by the regulators and in other instances by the markets. Some markets like in Europe have settled into a state of equilibrium while other hyper growth markets like India are shuffling to find the right balance.

The elements of globalization are also shaping how mobile network operators grow. The regulators and the political class are increasingly looking at mobile networks as national assets and any foreign ownership generally goes through tremendous scrutiny.

Having worked in major mobile markets around the world, we have been intrigued by the framework for a competitive market and this is the theme we explore in this working paper. Having the front row seat in an industry that is growing stupendously has given us some unique perspective on the competitive forces at work in the mobile space. We studied the competitive landscape in 40 top mobile markets around the globe.

This chapter presents the analysis and an in-depth analytical framework to study the competitive landscape in the global mobile markets.