China Mobile and China Telecom closed 2020 with a combined 251.5 million 5G subscribers, taking their respective penetration rates to 17.5 per cent and 24.6 per cent.

The market leader added 17.6 million 5G package customers in December 2020, taking its annual total to 165 million. China Telecom added 7 million, ending the year with 86.5 million.

Despite its 5G package lead, China Mobile’s overall subscriber base fell 8.2 million in 2020 to 941.9 million. China Telecom users increased 4.6 per cent year-on-year to 351 million, with China Unicom losing 12.7 million for a total of 305.8 million.

China Unicom is yet to release 5G numbers.

The operators launched 5G services in late October 2019 and by end-2020 had deployed nearly 800,000 sites. They plan to add 600,000 this year.

But there is a discrepancy in package subscriber numbers and those with compatible handsets: China Academy of Information and Communications figures placed shipments of 5G smartphones at just under 163 million units in 2020.