Chinese operators lose millions of subscribers

All three of the big Chinese mobile operators are reporting significant declines in their subscriber numbers, presumably due to the current exceptional circumstances.

BNN Bloomberg has been taking a look at the numbers and reports that in the first two months of this year China Mobile lost 8 million subscribers, China telecom lost 5.6 million just in February, while China Unicom experienced a 1.2 million decline in January. One likely treason for this is extra accounts held by migrant workers for their workplace, which became redundant while they were on lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While the numbers seem big, they need to be viewed in the context of the subscriber totals, which are in the hundreds of millions. Having said that it’s distinctly abnormal for Chinese operators to experience subscriber declines of any sort, so this is definitely significant. It seems very unlikely, however, that people will choose this time to cancel all their mobile subscriptions.

There is going to be a lot of financial hardship thanks to people being unable to work, but in a time of social distancing and self-isolation staying digitally connected to the world is more important than ever. For that reason it would be surprising to see similar declines in western markets, where the same domestic economic factors don’t apply. Having said that it is reasonable to expect some ARPU declines as everyone tightens their belts.


  1. Avatar Cu li 23/03/2020 @ 8:27 pm

    How do gov cover-up whistleblowers, leaks from within Wuhan? Cut off communication ☎️ is one of them

  2. Avatar Serena Yu 25/03/2020 @ 3:34 am

    China mobile has recently started allowing users to transfer to other mobile network providers and keep their phone numbers. Previously they would lose their numbers. That’s why users flowed out. You have to add up all mobile operators besides CM to get accurate statistics.

  3. Avatar Andrew Murray 26/03/2020 @ 10:14 am

    Is this reflective of the actual death count?

    • Avatar Marvin Evan's Dunn Jr 02/04/2020 @ 3:49 am


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