Growth Codes

How successful operators across the world are leveraging the ever evolving demand for mobile data services.

What makes a mobile operator successful?

The extraordinary digital revolution towards real-time, any-time connectivity is transforming the world and is creating many opportunities for operators. Some operators have been significantly better than others in achieving growth and leveraging ever-evolving demand. We call them Frontrunners.


Much can be learned by analyzing the Frontrunners. We have found that they have common traits, yet often very different strategies, for approaching the market and running their operations to enable profitable, sustainable growth. The common traits, as well as the strategies used by the Frontrunners, form the core of the Growth Codes. 

Using the Frontrunners for our research provides an opportunity to learn from the best. In recent work, we have investigated what some of the Frontrunners, along with other leading operators are doing within IoT towards 5G. 

Identifying Frontrunners

Frontrunners are characterized by superior service revenue growth and a high share of data revenues, and they are the most successful Mobile Service Providers in the industry.

We have been following the development of Frontrunners since 2012, when there were just five. After analyzing financial reports from 2018, the list has grown to 49 Mobile Service Provides meeting all our criteria for Frontrunner status. This increase in Frontrunners over the years suggest the pieces are falling into place where data revenue will lift the entire market towards stronger growth.

Frontrunners are determined by three main criteria:

  • Achieving 5% or higher full year growth on wireless service revenue
  • Maturity in respect to capturing business through a higher proportion of non-voice revenue, beyond 25 percent
  • Possess a strong mobile market position with at least a 10% wireless market share and $100M USD in wireless revenues

In addition, we do a check to see that they are profitable with 15% or higher EBITDA on wireless services.

Frontrunners 2019

Graph, Frontrunners 2019  - Service revenue growth

Frontrunners 2019 and service revenue growth

Frontrunner performance

These Mobile Service providers have succeeded through a combined focus on technology and a go-to market strategy across the seven Growth Codes. As the graph above shows, they were able to achieve an average 8.5% CAGR (10.8) in revenue between 2014 and 2018. Comparably the “other”-group achieved a negative -1.95% (1.5) growth. The slight decrease from previous period is likely due, in part, to changes in financial reporting rules. 

There may be multiple reasons for the dramatic increase in Frontrunners and the positive over all changes, but a few observations may be worth mentioning.  

  • LTE has been rolled out to the majority of markets and there are no longer any technical bottlenecks holding back data growth.
  • Consumers have generally accepted the practice of charging for data volume and usage levels have mostly shifted from Megabyte to Gigabyte territory and top ups and tier shifts are becoming commonplace.
  • Mobile Service Providers have figured out how to monetize data in a sustainable way mostly matching offerings towards user needs.

We are continuously following the progress of the Frontrunners, and the Growth Codes concept is continuously developing. Today Growth Codes provide both insights and a structure to examine your own business in all aspects relevant to profitable business growth, allowing you to challenge your own thinking about your own business.

What are Growth Codes?

There is no single recipe for success across the industry. But the mobile operators who have most successfully turned the extraordinary demand for mobile data over the past few years into profitable revenue growth show remarkably similar behaviors in seven key areas – the Growth Codes.

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The Strategies

By investigating Frontrunners´ differentiation, customer, market and product scope, as well as their approaches to technology and operations, three different strategies can be distinguished.

The Codes

Operators who have most successfully turned the extraordinary demand for mobile data services of the past few years into profitable revenue growth show remarkably similar behaviors in seven key areas.

The Growth Codes Dashboard

The Growth Codes Dashboard provides both a structure and a benchmarking tool to examine your own business and compare your own business performance with the Frontrunners or peers.

Monetizing data, today and into 5G

By researching the equivalent of 800 million consumers and what they want and need from operators in today’s environment and into 5G, we have come up with 6 Calls to Action that all operators should look into and deliver on.

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