“Could the world’s largest mobile operator be on the verge of breaking into the top five?” we asked this time last year on publishing the 2011 edition of the Global 100 ranking of the world’s biggest telecoms operators.

A year on and China Mobile has done exactly that, leapfrogging Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica to take the number four position in theGlobal 100 2012 table. It added more than €9 billion (or almost 43 billion yuan) to its revenues in the most recent financial year, while Telefonica, which held fourth place last year, grew its top line by just over €2 billion.

Strong growth from the Chinese telco has brought change to the top five of the Global 100 for the first time since 2007, when AT&T replaced NTT in the number one spot. China Mobile stood in 11th place that year with revenues of €29.47 billion (303.64 billion yuan). It has grown consistently ever since and in the most recent financial year booked revenues of €64.06 billion (528 billion yuan), an increase of 117% in euro terms over those six years. AT&T, by contrast, which has also performed strongly in recent years–being the world’s largest telecoms operator by revenue is no mean feat–saw its revenues increase by 11% over the same period, to €97.86 billion.
China Mobile’s domestic rivals have also made steady gains in the Global 100 in recent years. Back in 2007 there were four Chinese operators in the top half of the table, ranging from China Mobile down to China Netcom (which was absorbed into China Unicom via an industry restructuring in late 2008) at number 28; the four together had revenues of €64.08 billion, just €18 million more than China Mobile’s annual turnover today. This year China Telecom, China Unicom (both of which rose up the table by one place this year, just as they did in last year’s report) and China Mobile together recorded revenues of €119 billion, more than twice their 2007 figure.

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