China Mobile notches up half a billion subscribers

China Mobile, the world’s biggest wireless carrier in terms of subscribers, said Monday that it passed the half billion customers milestone at the end of August.

The Chinese mobile operator recorded a customer base of 502.936 million as of August 31, 2009, after net additions of 5.3 million during that month alone. The company has added over 45 million subscribers since the start of 2009.

According to statistics from Informa’s WCIS database, mobile penetration in China topped 50 per cent at the end of June, with the country boasting a total of 673 million subscribers. China Mobile is the clear leader, with second placed China Unicom recording 140 million users at the end of June and China Telecom with 40 million customers, according to Informa.

The number of 3G subscribers on China Mobile’s homegrown TD-SCDMA network hit 1.33 million in August, up from just over one million in July, the company said.

With equipment spending by Chinese mobile operators estimated to hit $41bn over the next two years, vendors are falling over themselves to accommodate the country’s nascent technology initiatives. Nokia Siemens Networks recently threw its weight behind TD-LTE, the Time Division flavour of the next generation wireless platform based on LTE and earlier this week said it had partnered with China Mobile to demonstrate a TD-LTE femtocell, ensuring decent indoor coverage for the 4G networking platform.

China was always the most likely scenario for deployment of TD-LTE, where it is backwards compatible with China’s own homegrown 3G technology, TD-SCDMA. Meanwhile, China Unicom will use WCDMA, and China Telecom will use EV-DO.

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