Updated 23/1: China, the world’s largest LTE market by a large margin, added 347 million 4G subscribers in 2016 to take the country’s 4G penetration to 57 per cent.
The three mobile operators’ LTE connections jumped 84 per cent last year to 762 million, which accounted for 43 per cent of the world’s total of 1.77 billion LTE connections at the end of 2016. According to GSMA Intelligence, global 4G connections increased 64 per cent last year.
The country’s largest operator China Mobile ended 2016 with 535 million 4G subs, up 71 per cent from the end of 2015. In December it added 25.2 million 4G connections, its highest monthly gain ever. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of its customers are now on 4G plans. The operator accounts for 30 per cent of global LTE connections. Just 12 per cent, or 103.4 million, of its subscribers are on its 3G network.
China Telecom’s 4G user base doubled last year to 122 million, with LTE subscribers accounting for 57 per cent of its mobile connections, while China Unicom’s 4G subs rose from 44.1 million at end-2015 to 104.5 million, representing 40 per cent of its customer base.
China Mobile’s net gain of nearly 223 million 4G subs was only slightly below its two rivals’ combined 4G total of 227 million.
The marker leader’s total users increased 2.8 per cent to 849 million. China Telecom’s total number of mobile connections increased 6.8 per cent to 215 million. China Unicom, the country’s second largest mobile operator, continued to grow slowly, with total mobile connections inching up 2.5 per cent to 264 million.