Bharti overtakes Telefónica to become fourth largest mobile operator

Bharti Airtel has leapfrogged Telefónica to become the fourth largest mobile operator in the world, according to a report from Wireless Intelligence.

The ranking tracks the top 20 global operators by connections based on majority owned assets in the second quarter of 2012. Minority holdings at less than 50% stake ownership were excluded from the analysis.

The Indian carrier experienced 13% year-on-year growth in global connections compared to Telefónica’s 7%, raising Bharti to 250.04 million connections in the second quarter of 2012 to Telefónica’s 243.51 million.

Bharti became the fifth largest mobile operator in the world after acquiring Zain Group’s operations across 15 African nations in June 2010. Wireless Intelligence did note, however, that the Indian operator’s revenue at $3.04 billion was significantly lower than the other four operators in the top five.

The other movement in the top 10 came from China Unicom which moved up one place to sixth with a 21% year-on-year increase in connections to 219.3 million. China Telecom also rose to two places to tenth after recording a 33% increase in connections to 144.2 million.

Number one ranked China Mobile maintained its position with 683.08 million connections and 11% year-on-year growth.

Second ranked Vodafone Group had 386.88 million subscribers and 5% year-on-year growth and third ranked América Móvil had 251.83 million subscribers and 7% growth.

Lower down in the table France Telecom returned to the top 20 after dropping out of the list a year ago. Its fluctuations in ranking were attributed to the disposal of none core or minority assets and the raising of its stake in others.

Through increasing its holdings in Poland’s Orange and Egypt’s Mobinil to above 50%, these assets were included in France Telecom’s Wireless Intelligence ranking, adding 14.8 million and 32.4 million connections respectively.