NEW BLOG: Only in China does a net gain of 635,000 connections in a single month by the country’s second-largest operator constitute a ‘subscriber growth crisis’.
China Unicom reported its lowest net gain this year in August after adding 888,000 connections in July. And that was way down from an average of 1.75 – 2.6 million per month over the previous six months. To make matters worse for China Unicom, rival China Mobile added more than nine million customers using its new 4G network in the same month.
China Mobile is aggressively pushing 4G since obtaining its licence in December. It says it will install 500,000 4G base stations by the end of the year. Qiu Heng, Huawei’s VP of TDD networks, last week revealed at the LTE Asia event in Singapore that the actual number could be closer to 600,000 (Huawei is providing about two-thirds of the market leader’s BTS gear).
The operator plans to deploy another 400,000 base stations next year, bringing its total to at least one million. At that point, the operator will account for half of the total 4G base stations in the world, Heng said.
China Unicom and China Telecom, he said, can’t compete with China Mobile on the number of base stations it installs, so they need to consider using both TDD and FDD spectrum to reduce the number of sites required.
In the race to sign up 4G customers, China Mobile now controls 90 per cent of 4G connections in the country, with a total of 30 million, while China Unicom has almost eight per cent of the 4G market and China Telecom trails with under two per cent.
The two rivals certainly face a huge challenge to take a sizeable chuck of the 4G market. But in a country with 1.2 billion mobile connections (only 34 per cent 3G), 30 million is a drop in the ocean. With their expanded TDD trial licences and aggressive rollout plans, China Unicom and China Telecom are now on more equal footing with the leader, which was given a significant head start.
GSMA Intelligence forecasts China Unicom will add 1.5 million 4G connections in Q3 and 3.5 million in Q4 while China Telecom will sign up one million in Q3 and 2.4 million in the final quarter. Those numbers would be worth boasting about in almost any other market, but look puny with China Mobile predicted to add almost 43 million connections in the last six months of the year.
Only in China…
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