Mobile sales rise: Gartner

11 Mar 2003

Gartner Dataquest’s annual figures on mobile handset sales revealed a 6pc increase on 2001. The news provides evidence that the sector is healthier than previously thought given the telecoms slump of recent years.

Worldwide mobile phone unit sales totalled 423.4 million units in 2002, up from 399.5 million the previous year. Fourth quarter worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 122.6 million units, an increase of 14pc compared to the same period last year.

Gartner Dataquest analysts noted that fourth quarter mobile operator connection growth came in well above industry expectations in almost every region of the world, helping to drive fourth quarter sales up almost 15pc sequentially.

“Consumers embraced a variety of innovative handsets, especially those with colour screens, rather than delaying replacement purchases because of an ongoing lack of compelling mobile data services,” said Bryan Prohm, senior analyst with the mobile communications worldwide research group for Gartner Dataquest. “This is an encouraging trend, because as carriers and manufacturers determine how to better align devices with applications and services, the market may again prove stronger than expected during 2003.”

Once again, the largest vendors realised much better results than the smaller and regional vendors in 2002. Four of the top five vendors gained market share during 2002. As expected, Nokia is on top of the pile, with over twice the market share of its nearest rival with a 35.8pc share, up 0.8pc from 2001, with a sales growth of 8.4pc. However, Gartner Dataquest analysts said the vendor will face challenges in 2003.

“Some large GSM carriers will actively promote other manufacturers’ products during 2003 in an attempt to restrain Nokia’s growth in major markets,” said Ben Wood, senior analyst with the mobile communications group for Gartner Dataquest in Europe. “Nevertheless, multiple opportunities exist for Nokia to maintain and even increase its market share in 2003, particularly in code division multiple access (CDMA) markets in Asia/Pacific and the Americas.”

Motorola lies in second place on 15.3pc, up from 14.8pc the previous year. The US company achieved a sales growth of 9.4pc. Some key product delays hampered Motorola’s recovery during 2002 and the company netted only a small year-over-year increase in market share, but prospects for 2003 remain bright. “During 2003, look for Motorola to again vie for leadership of the global CDMA market, consolidate an emerging leadership position in the Americas and move to defend share in China. Motorola’s greatest challenge however, remains how to address an enduring weakness in the Europe, Middle East and Africa [EMEA] region,” Prohm said.

However, as indicated throughout last year, Samsung is the big winner, with a massive 47.6pc growth in sales allowing it to leapfrog above Siemens for the No. 3 spot. The Korean manufacturer now has a market share of 9.8pc. “Samsung has a mature and innovative handset portfolio encompassing CDMA, GSM, time division multiple access (TDMA) and it maintains a strong presence in all major markets except Japan. It has become almost universally regarded as the industry’s most significant threat to incumbent mobile terminal manufacturers,” said Ann Liang, industry analyst with the Mobile Communications Group for Gartner Dataquest in Asia/Pacific.

Siemens did have a good year, despite losing the No. 3 ranking. The company achieved a sales growth of 16.4pc and now enjoys a market share of 8.2pc, up from 7.4pc last year.

The big loser was Sony Ericsson, whose fortunes seem to go from bad to worse. The company had a negative sales growth of 14.3pc and lost market share from 6.7pc to 5.5pc over the course of the year. This is despite the fact that 2001’s figures only included Ericsson’s sales while 2002’s record post merger sales.

By Dick O’Brien