China’s mobile sector has expanded by 11.1% year-on-year to 1.223 billion users, whilst a 3G boom has seen mobile data subscribers increase by 78.8% over the same period to 417.323 million, according to data published by the nation’s trio of wireless providers, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, for end-December 2013. China Mobile, the largest operator in the world by subscribers has continued to see its share of the overall market eroded by its smaller rivals, despite gains in the wireless data space. China Mobile registered a total of 767.206 million customers for end-2013, of which 191.623 million were 3G customers, equating to a 62.2% share of the total sector and 45.9% of the 3G segment compared to 64.0% and 37.7% respectively twelve months earlier. China Mobile previously struggled to carry over its strength in the 2G market to the 3G segment, hamstrung by its decision to utilise the home-grown TD-SCDMA platform for mobile broadband services. The poor ecosystem for the technology initially held back the cellco from competing on level terms with Unicom and Telecom in the data sector, but concerted efforts from the cellco in 2012/2013 to drastically increase the availability and attractiveness of TD-SCDMA-compatible handsets has begun to pay dividends for the mobile giant.
Whilst China Mobile has underperformed in the 3G segment, the smallest of the trio, CDMA operator China Telecom has punched well above its weight in the data sector and claimed nearly a quarter of the space at the end of 2013, with 103.110 million 3G subscribers in its total 185.580 million-strong customer base. Nevertheless, the reversal of China Mobile’s fortunes has begun to have an impact on Telecom, which saw its share of the data segment slide from 29.6% in December 2012 to 24.7% a year later. By contrast, Telecom saw an increase in its overall position, claiming 15.0% of the total market, up from 14.5% at end-2012. Unicom meanwhile booked a total of 280.983 million wireless subscribers at 31 December 2013, including 122.600 million 3G customers. This translated to a 22.8% share of the total mobile market, up from 21.6% at end-2012, and 29.4% of the 3G segment, compared to 32.8% a year earlier.