China Mobile Leads in 3G Subscribers, But Transition from 2G is Slow


With China’s total mobile subscribers sitting at over a billion right now, it’s interesting to look at the rate at which subscribers are coming over to 3G. Overall, it’s still a relatively slow transition in comparison to more mature mobile markets. But interestingly, some telecoms are moving a little faster than others.

Looking at 3G and total mobile subscribers for all three major carriers combined, (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom), we can see that the total subscriber count sits at 1.08 billion, with the total 3G count at 202.18 million as of September. These are pretty staggering figures, as is always the case for China, but no patterns or trends really stand out.

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But if we take 3G as a percentage of the total, we can get a better view of the rate of 3G adoption in the country. Looking way back in January 2011, 3G users accounted for just six percent of total subscribers. But now, 3G subscribers account for almost 19 percent of the whole. Still not a huge number compared to Japan or Korea, but growing at a solid clip.

[Download image version of chart]

Breaking this down even further to look at the rate of 3G adoption for each carrier, we can see that even though China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) dominates subscriber totals, it lags behind in 3G adoption, with China Telecom (NYSE:CHA; HKG:0728) and China Unicom (HKG:762) leading the way. So while China Mobile still has the most 3G users, the rate at which it is transitioning from 2G to 3G appears to be far slower than its competitors — both of whom, coincidentally, carry Apple’s iPhone.

[Download image version of chart]

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