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Chinese, Indian and African Cellphone Markets Skyrocket, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

China is the world’s largest cellular market, with more than 1.6 billion subscriptions as of late 2020 (out of a population of about 1.449 billion).  China Mobile Ltd. is China’s largest carrier with 941.7 million subscriptions as of April 2021.  4G connections were dominant in China by 2017, and 5G posted rapid growth beginning in 2020.  
India had 1.18 billion wireless subscribers in early 2021 (out of a population of about 1.39 billion).  India has seen phenomenal growth in subscriptions in recent years due to aggressive competition among telecom firms and the issue of licenses by the Indian government.  Relatively new to the mobile phone market in India is Jio, a 4G carrier launched by the giant industrial conglomerate Reliance Industries, which has invested more than $20 billion in infrastructure to deliver high-speed connectivity throughout India.  It led the market by December 2020 with 411.53 million subscribers.  Bharti Airtel had 343.27 million wireless customers as of December 2020, followed by Vodafone Idea with 284.78 million (Vodafone merged with Idea Cellular, Ltd. In 2018) and BSNL with 125.88 million.
Between April and June 2020, Jio Platforms raised $15.2 billion in new investment capital in 11 deals.  Facebook acquired a 10% stake for $5.7 billion, followed by agreements with American private equity firms KKR, Vista, General Atlantic, TPG, L Catterton and Silver Lake, as well as United Arab Emirates’ Mubadala and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.  Google recently announced a $4.5 billion deal in which it will collaborate with Reliance Industries on a new low-cost (less than $100) smartphones for the Jio network, to compete directly with units sold by Chinese vendors including Xiaomi and BBK Electronics.  
The cellphone market in the continent of Africa is also growing quickly.  In a continent where land-based telephone lines are concentrated in only a few areas, cellular service is the first modern infrastructure many Africans enjoy.  There were an estimated 1 billion wireless subscriptions in Africa as of 2018.  GSMA Intelligence expected this to grow to 1.3 billion by 2020, Phones marketed to these areas tend to be simple.  Costs are kept extremely low to make the phones affordable.  Nokia and Vodafone are targeting the very low-cost market, as are specialty manufacturers such as ZTE Corp., a Chinese handset maker with phones starting under $20.  The African market for more sophisticated smartphones is on the rise.
Charging the batteries in cellphones is a major challenge in the emerging world, where electric supply is often not reliable or of limited availability.  ZTE introduced a solar-powered handset, the Coral-200, which can retail in the $40 range.
Substantial growth in cellphone use in Africa is being fueled by two factors:  First, both handsets and services are extremely inexpensive there, which is vital in this low-income market.  Next, and equally important for most users throughout the continent, cellphones provide the only reliable, affordable, easy-to-obtain access to modern communications.

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