China Mobile, the world’s largest cellular provider by subscribers, has booked operating revenue of CNY169.86 billion (USD27.76 billion) for the first three months of 2015, an increase of 3.9% year-on-year, driven by growth in the operator’s subscriber base, in particular its 4G users, which reached 143.08 million at end-March 2015, compared to 2.79 million twelve months earlier. EBITDA was up 2.8% y-o-y to CNY59.18 billion, although EBITDA margin dipped to 36.8% from 37.2% in Q1 2014.
China Mobile registered net additions of 8.75 million new users in the period under review, lifting its total user base to 815.38 million from 806.63 million at end-December 2014. 3G subscriptions dipped by 10.99 million to 234.76 million in the three months to 31 March 2015 as users migrated to 4G plans, with the cellco registering 53.02 million net new 4G customers. The shift towards 4G has helped bolster ARPU, which increased from CNY58 per month in Q4 2014 to CNY59 in Q1 2015. Meanwhile, the growing popularity of smartphones and data services has begun to erode Mobile’s traditional revenue streams, as users increasingly adopt over-the-top (OTT) messaging applications: SMS usage slipped from 156.1 billion to 146.2 billion and total voice traffic slumped from 1.083 trillion to 1.030 trillion, a fall of 4.9% quarter-on-quarter.