China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom surpassed the 1 billion 4G subscriber milestone in December 2017, after picking up nearly 25 million LTE subs in the month.

After a slowdown in net 4G additions in the back half of 2017 (14.9 million in November versus 17.2 million in October and 23.2 million in August), it looked like the operators would fall short of the 1 billion figure by year-end. But China Mobile, the largest mobile operator in the world, added 15.6 million 4G subs, taking its total to 649.5 million and giving it LTE penetration of 73.2 per cent (it had added 5.2 million 4G subscribers in November).

China Telecom and China Unicom each signed up about 4.5 million LTE subs in December, ending the year with 182 million and 174.9 million respectively. Both operators’ 4G growth was similar to the previous month.

Figures from the operators’ websites showed they ended December with a combined 1.006 billion 4G subscribers.

GSMA Intelligence data shows China accounted for 40.2 per cent of a total of 2.5 billion global 4G connections at end-2017.

The operators’ figures exclude M2M but may include multiple SIMs per user, so the unique subscriber numbers may be lower.