China Mobile’s 4G march picked up steam in the first quarter, with the country’s leading operator (and the world’s largest) widening the gap with the number 2 and 3 players as it added 53 million 4G connections.

Its 4G connections jumped from 90 million at the end of 2014 to 143 million last month. Rivals China Unicom and China Telecom together had just 20 million 4G connections at the end of March.

China Mobile had nine million net additions in Q1, bringing its total mobile connection base to 815 million. Its 3G user base dropped by six million during the quarter to about 235 million.

The company said mobile data traffic increased by 158 per cent to 490 billion MB compared to the same period last year. Voice usage fell 1.3 per cent, while SMS usage decreased 4.5 per cent.

For the quarter its operating revenue increased 3.9 per cent to CNY160.9 billion ($26.3 billion) from a year ago.

The company said revenue growth accelerated in Q1 compared to last year as customer spending was stimulated by strong tariff promotions and sales initiatives towards the end of last year as well as rapid growth in 4G terminal sales. It warned, however, that the annual growth rate of revenue from sales of products may decrease.

Its EBITDA fell 2.8 per cent to CNY59.2 billion, while net profit dropped again (5.6 per cent) to CNY23.8 billion.