Three of China’s state-run mobile operators have posted positive financial results for the first-half of 2017, after enduring a difficult 2016. China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile all made solid gains on their bottom line, largely due to the continued rapid demand for data and 4G uptake.
All three entities suffered a decline in earnings during 2016 - but in the first-half of this year they’ve made a combined profit of CYN 77.6 billion ($11.6 billion) compared with a combined profit of CYN127.6 billion for all of 2016.
Analysts have attributed the success of the state-owned mobile operators to significant 4G subscriber gains from January-June. The trio took its LTE user base to 885 million. In addition to this, it was further disclosed that both China Telecom and China Mobile are increasingly close to reaching the 70% 4G penetration mark, with China Unicom lagging behind by a reported 14%.
China Mobile remains the market incumbent with a 64% share of total subscribers, 67% of which are 4G users. The Chinese operators ended June with 3.47 million 4G base stations, the breakdown of which consisted of China Mobile (1.65M) China Telecom (1.05M) and China Unicom (770,000). It was also disclosed that China Mobile has announced its intentions to construct an additional 120,000 4G sites in the second-half of next year, whilst China Telecom has said it will deploy another 110,000 by the end of this year.
Mobile voice revenue continues to decline sharply due to the dominance of OTT’s, but all three operators still managed to grow mobile service revenue by 5%. It’s the universal demand for data which has contributed to the operator’s success so far this year. China Telecom has enjoyed a healthy increase of 24% in mobile data, accumulating CYN55.3 billion in the process. China Mobile reported a 34% increase in mobile data accumulating CYN185 billion, whilst China Unicom’s data growth increased by 21%, accumulating CYN43.5 billion.
The state-run operators have signed up 23.7 million 4G subscribers in July, which takes the country’s total to 908M. However, China Mobile has announced its plans to end 2017 by amassing 630M 4G subs, which analysts suggest is a target they should easily surpass. At this extraordinary pace, China will likely end the year with well over 1 billion 4G customers, which would also subsequently mean that China would have 40% of the 2.45 billion global LTE connections by the end of the year.