The latest figures from telecom market research specialist EMC put China Mobile's total subscriber base at 123 million. Vodafone's combined international customer figures come in just over the 100 million mark as of the end of June.
In a sense, the figures themselves mean little. For one thing, Vodafone also has a presence in what will easily be the world's largest single mobile market. But the study may affect the company's marketing itself as the "world's largest mobile community."
Also in the top five are T-Mobile in third place, followed by China Unicom, which has a 30 percent market share in China, and NTT DoCoMo, which holds stakes in operators in Western Europe as well as its home network in Japan.
Silicon.com's Tony Hallett reported from London.