Numbers from the three major operators in China for the opening nine months showed strikingly similar trends, with profit growth, modest revenue gains and flat ARPU.

The trio added 260 million 5G package customers year-on-year (see chart, below) to take the county’s total to a staggering 1.3 billion, with China Mobile signing up the lion’s share.

ARPU has been stable over the past seven quarters.

China operators key metrics, Jan-Sep 2023

OperatorNet profit (CNY billion)Change (year-on-year)Mobile service revenue (CNY billion)Change (year-on-year)Total mobile subscribers (million)5G package customers (million)5G additions (million, year-on-year)ARPU (CNY)/change year-on-year
China Mobile105.57.1%n/an/a99075019351.20 / 1%
China Telecom27.110.4%151.92.4%4063084046.60 / Flat
China Unicom17.210.1%130.72.6%3322484744.30 / Flat
Source: operator statements

China Mobile was the only one to not release mobile service revenue figures, booking a 7.2 per cent year-on-year increase in overall telecoms service revenue to CNY664.6 billion ($91.2 billion) and a similar rise in product sales to CNY111 billion.

The number of customers with 5G-capable handsets rose 45.5 per cent to 425 million and accounted for 30 per cent of its total user base of 990 million. 

Average data traffic rose 14.7 per to 15.6GB per month, and data and ICT revenue grew 26.4 per cent to CNY86.6 billion.

China Unicom’s equipment sales increased 20 per cent to CNY29.2 billion and it added nearly 10 million mobile subs for a total of 332 million.

The number of IoT terminal connections rose 30 per cent to 467 million, driving a 22 per cent increase in revenue to CNY7.5 billion.

China Telecom picked up nearly 15 million mobile subscribers to end September with 405.8 million.

Revenue from its digital industrial services grew 16.5 per cent to CNY99.7 billion.