Omdia: China Mobile tops 2023 digital strategy benchmark as telcos develop new services

Telecom operators around the world  are embracing digital transformation and developing services in new sectors (beyond connectivity) to facilitate that megatrend.  Omdia’s Service Provider Digital Strategy Benchmark report, which scores the digital strategies of 12 major global operator, identified the leaders as: China Mobile, SK Telecom, NTT DoCoMo, and Deutsche Telekom.   With telecom operators all making a fair amount of noise about digital transformation, it’s useful to have a way of ranking their efforts and cutting through the marketing hype.

China Mobile scored 27.5 points out of a maximum of 35. It scored so highly due to the scale at which it has deployed high-speed broadband and subsequently used that infrastructure as platform to develop new services, Omdia explained.

East Asian operators account for three of the top-four places in the benchmark, demonstrating that service providers in the region are among the most advanced in the world.  China Mobile is showing a particularly impressive speed of change, with digital transformation services now accounting for more than 25% of service revenues,” said Dario Talmesio, Research Director, Service Provider Strategy & Regulation, at Omdia. “China Mobile is rapidly turning itself into a TechCo operator with an array of digital services beyond connectivity,” he added.

China Mobile reported a 30% year-on-year increase in digital transformation revenue for full-year 2022 to 207.6 billion yuan (US$29 billion), while overall telecommunications services revenues came in at CNY812.1 billion ($114 billion), up by 8.1%.

The China state owned telco itself attributed the growth in digital transformation revenue to “the rapid expansion of 5G applications, mobile cloud, digital content, smart home and other businesses,” and talked up its “remarkable results” in that area. “These services have become a key growth driver contributing to a more balanced, stable and healthy overall revenue structure,” it said in its annual results announcement.

SK Telecom’s position at number two in the ranking is based on its drive to reinvest itself as an AI company and its work to develop services in areas including the metaverse and urban air mobility, Omdia said.

When SK Telecom chief executive took the reins just over 18 months ago, he outlined plans to drive a 20% revenue hike between 2020 and 2025 essentially by transforming the telco into an AI and digital infrastructure company. Amongst other things, that meant turning the firm’s ifland metaverse into an open platform, and a year later the telco was able to announce that its metaverse platform had gone global.

It is working with a number of other operators on metaverse content and technology, including Singtel and NTT DoCoMo, the latter also performing well on digital transformation. Fairly generally, Omdia talks up DoCoMo’s strength in technology and digital services.

Omdia also picks out e& – the operator formerly known as Etisalat – for particular mention. The United Arab Emirates-based telco group ranks fifth in the benchmark.

“e&’s strong showing is based on its new strategy, unveiled in early 2022, of transforming itself into a global technology and investment group—a strategy that it is pursuing vigorously,” said Matthew Reed, Chief Analyst, Service Provider Markets, at Omdia.

The UAE telco reorganised itself under four pillars. The first covers its existing telecoms operations, but the second and third, E& life and e& enterprise, are responsible for new digital services and experiences in the consumer and business markets respectively. The fourth is about investment. The firm made many headlines with its decision to adopt e& as its new brand; the rebrand arguably overshadowed the strategic shift. But with that ampersand essentially standing for all the new sectors in addition to telecoms – next-gen technologies, digital experiences, financial services, the cloud, IoT, AI and so forth – it does make sense, and clearly e& is doing something right to find itself scoring 22 in the Omdia benchmark.

Bharti Airtel is ranked seventh in the 2023 benchmark, up from ninth place in 2022 following Airtel’s launch of 5G in India in late 2022 and as Airtel continues to develop its sizeable portfolio of digital services.


Omdia, part of Informa Tech, is a technology research and advisory group. Our deep knowledge of tech markets combined with our actionable insights empower organizations to make smart growth decisions.


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