China’s largest mobile network operator China Mobile (Hong Kong) added 3.4 million new subscribers in May, to boost its total to 220.5 million, and in the process outstripped rival operator China Unicom, which only managed to sign up 1.43 million new users. Unicom ended last month with 119.2 million users on its two networks, having added 542,000 subscribers to its CDMA service and 894,000 GSM users.
China Mobile’s gains could come at a price, however, as over 96% of the new net additions last month were pre-paid users which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the company’s ARPU – the industry’s meter for profitability. Contract users currently account for around 27% of China Mobile’s total, although this figure is declining and ARPU has already sunk to CNY92 from CNY99 last year. China Unicom is also facing a shrinking ARPU as it too looks to sign up more low end users.