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China Mobile claims 15.4 million 5G subscriptions

We all know that China is a very large country, but sometimes numbers are just numbers and we forget just how big it actually is.

China might not have been one of the first to launch commercial 5G services, but its ability to aggressively ramp up is impressive. Not only is the company claiming to have signed-up 15.4 million 5G subscribers, it is also boasting about growing its 4G customer base by another 25.21 million.

In adding another 25.21 million subscriptions, China Mobile’s consumer customer base now stands at 950 million, 758 million of which are 4G. Just to put that into perspective, have a look at the table below:

Telco Country Subscriptions
EE UK 30.15 million
Telstra Australia 16.22 million
Proximus Belgium 6.31 million
Vivo Brazil 74.58 million
Orange France 35.35 million
Verizon USA 178.87 million
Telcel Mobile Mexico 76.92 million
NTT Docomo Japan 79.67 million
China Mobile China 950 million

Data curtesy of Omdia’s World Information Series (WIS) – figures accurate to December 31, 2019

On top of the 950 million mobile subscriptions, China Mobile has grown its broadband business to 172 million, a 17.1% year-on-year increase, and it also boasts of 884 million IOT customers. And while these numbers are almost too large for most telcos to comprehend, the venture into 5G is also very interesting.

The business is involved in 61 international 5G projects, owns more than 2,000 5G patents, has deployed and is operating more than 50,000 5G base stations, has more than more than 200 critical capabilities, and, as of February, has convinced 15.4 million people to sign-up to a 5G contract.

Despite these eye-watering numbers, China Mobile is not able to counter industry trends of eroding profit margins and mediocre growth.

“We were faced with a challenging and complicated operating environment in 2019 where the upside of data traffic was rapidly diminishing and competition within the telecommunications industry and from cross-sector players was becoming ever more intense,” said China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie.

Partly blaming Government pressure to upscale performance and bring down prices, profit attributable to equity shareholders and basic earnings per share both declined by 9.5%, while total operating revenues increased 1.2%. Revenues attributed to telco services only by a meagre 0.5%.

However, the telcos who can ride the wave of stagnation will be presented an opportunity should they be creative enough.

Emerging technologies are the driving force behind new business models, companies are embracing connectivity at the foundation of operations, while society is demanding digital as a basic requirement. China Mobile describes the future as a ‘blue ocean’ of opportunity, and while this might sound like needless consultancy talk, it is not inaccurate.

It might seem like we have been saying the same thing for years, but the companies who can weather the storm of inertia, scaling operations if not growing revenues, while also having the confidence to explore new products and services aggressively, will be very well position in the coming years.

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