5 foreign companies that are beating Silicon Valley at its own game

3. Global: Vodafone vs. any US telecom

Sang Tan/AP/File
People walk by a branch of Vodafone in central London in 2009. Britain's Vodafone PLC, one of the world's largest mobile phone companies, confirmed Thursday that it was in discussions with Verizon Communications to sell its operations in the United States.

What is Vodafone? Think Comcast is a telecom conglomerate? Take Comcast and multiply it by 102 countries and that is the size of the UK-based Vodafone. A household name in nearly every other country in the world, Vodafone has created enormous success by setting up reliable cell networks, offering affordable prepaid mobile and data plans, and partnering with local telecom companies that expand its services to every continent on the planet.

Why will it beat any US telecom? Simply put: it rules the telecom world outside the US and China. Currently it is the second largest telecom company in the world (as measured in subscribers and revenue) with more than 435 million subscribers. (China Mobile is No. 1.) It operates networks in 27 countries and has partnership with local telecoms in 75 other countries. The US has never been a country Vodafone has directly targeted, but that could change soon. Though it previously owned part of Verizon Wireless and put up a bid for AT&T in 2004 (it was beat out by Cingular), in December it announced a plan to extend service to its customers residing in the US through the T-Mobile network. Looks like Vodafone has brought the competition the US’ doorstep.

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