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Measuring internationalisation in the mobile telecommunications industry

Curwen, P.J. and Whalley, J.L. (2006) Measuring internationalisation in the mobile telecommunications industry. International Business Review, 15 (6). pp. 660-681. ISSN 0969-5931

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The telecommunications industry is often described as being a global industry. However, the fact that it exists throughout the globe does not necessarily imply that its constituent companies are individually global in their operations. So far, little interest has been expressed in determining whether they are or are not in practice, but to do so requires that one first determine how this is to be measured. This article focuses on the measurement of internationalisation within the mobile telecommunications industry where the phenomenon can be most clearly identified. Drawing on the literature, four dimensions of internationalisation are initially identified and a database is constructed for the year ending 31 December 2005 that provides hard evidence in relation to these dimensions. Analysis of the results reveals that just a handful of the companies in the sample can be considered to be meaningfully international when all four criteria are taken into account, and that Vodafone among them is best placed to describe itself as a global mobile operator although there are too many reservations for the term global to be seen as an appropriate label. The results highlight the complexity of internationalisation, with operators tending to do well on some of the criteria but not on others, and the paper illustrates how data availability influences the choice of criteria. Data availability also necessitates a trade-off between sample comprehensiveness and detail.