China Mobile marks the anniversary of its listing in Hong Kong, reports quarterly figures that show it serves more than one in six mobile subscribers worldwide

20 years is a long time in telecoms, an industry that prides itself on pace of change and rapid market growth rates, in some areas at least. It goes without saying that China is one of those areas.

Monday marked the 20th anniversary of China Mobile’s listing on the Hong Stock Exchange, a milestone it marked with a message on its Website, talking up its "miraculous journey" from analogue mobile network operator to a strong 4G player on the road to 5G.

At Total Telecom we decided to take a closer look at that journey; miraculous might not be the word we would have chosen, but it has certainly been impressive.
first operator
We’ll start with a quick figure: China Mobile has added almost 44 million subscribers per year since its flotation. To put that in context, that’s close to the population of Spain, every year, for 20 years.

At the end of September, China Mobile reported a customer base of 878 million, including 622 million 4G customers, up from 3.41 million at the end of 1997.

According to the GSMA, the world hit the 5 billion mobile customers milestone – that’s customers, not SIM cards – in June and this week the total stands at 5.09 billion.

That gives China Mobile a market share of 17.6%, or to put it another way, it serves more than one in six mobile users worldwide.

That’s a remarkable figure, but it has been higher; in the 2012-2014 period China Mobile’s global market share hovered above the 22% mark.

China Mobile became world’s largest mobile operator by customers a few years after its listing date and in November 2001 was the  to reach 100 million customers. That same year China overtook the U.S. as the biggest mobile market in the world.

China announced its plans to reshuffle its telecoms operators in mid-2008, a restructure that gave the market its current shape, and the following year China Mobile overtook Vodafone to become the world’s largest mobile operator by revenues.

China’s three mobile operators all announced quarterly figures this week. China Unicom and China Telecom remain much smaller than their rival, but both are adding customers at a rate that could induce envy in their peers in other markets.

China Unicom has added 55.73 million customers since the start of the year to take its mobile base to 276.87 million by the end of September, while China Telecom’s net adds numbered 25.56 million over the same period to give it 240.56 million customers in total.

Together with China Mobile, which added 28.81 million customers in the first nine months to reach its 877.71 million total, the operators served 1.4 billion subscribers at the end of September, or 27.5% of the global total.

Friday Review 27 October 2017