Three of China’s largest telecoms operators – China Telecom, China Netcom and China Unicom – have released key performance indicators for the quarter ended 31 March 2008. China Telecom reported 217.7 million fixed lines in service at the end of Q1, down 3.16% on the same period of 2007. Of the total, 54.7 million were connected to the group’s PHS network (known locally as XLT), down from 62.2 million, reflecting the growing unattractiveness of the limited mobility technology in the face of falling wireless tariffs. China Telecom reported 37.71 million broadband customers at the end of March, up from 35.65 million at the start of the year. In terms of operating revenue, Telecom reported a quarterly figure of RMB43.65 billion (USD6.25 billion), compared to RMB42.95 billion in the year ago period. EBITDA and net income climbed only slightly, by 0.4% and 0.5% respectively, to RMB22.67 billion and RMB6.25 billion.
China Netcom, the smaller of the country’s two fixed line operators, said first-quarter sales rose on an increase in broadband subscribers. Revenue climbed to RMB20.2 billion from RMB20.02 billion. The company added 1.89 million broadband customers to its base in the three month period, more than offsetting the 1.7 million loss in traditional fixed line subscribers. At the end of March the company claimed 21.7 million broadband customers and 109.1 million fixed lines in service.
China Unicom, the country’s second largest wireless operator, meanwhile reported that at the end of March 2008 it had 124.23 million GSM and 42.81 million CDMA customers, reflecting net additions of 3.66 million and 882,000 respectively.
According to well-established rumours, Beijing is close to confirming a massive restructuring of the telecoms industry under which China Telecom will acquire China Unicom’s CDMA network, China Netcom will buy Unicom’s GSM infrastructure, and the world’s largest cellco China Mobile will merge with small fixed line operator China Tietong.