China Mobile aims to deploy an additional 410,000 5G base stations in 2024 to take its total to 2.4 million, despite plans to cut capex.

The world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers ended 2023 with 1.9 million 5G base stations after adding 480,000 new sites. The total includes 620,000 700MHz sites deployed in partnership with China Broadnet.

China Mobile disclosed last week it plans to cut capex in 2024 by 4 per cent to CNY173 billion ($23.9 billion), with investment in 5G networks to drop 21.6 per cent to CNY69 billion. Overall spending on connectivity is forecast to decline 20 per cent to CNY87.4 billion.

As a percentage of service revenue, capex is earmarked to fall below 20 per cent from 20.9 per cent in 2023 and 22.8 per cent in 2022.

Government figures showed the country’s three major operators closed 2023 with 3.4 million 5G base stations.

Earlier this week, the GSMA forecast 5G connections in China would top 1 billion this year, after hitting 810 million at end-2023.