China Mobile said it had 41 million 4G customers at the end of September 2014, compared with around 14 million at 30 June, as it “substantially leveraged its first-mover advantages in 4G (TD-LTE) services.”

But this has come at a price. In a statement, it said that “the demand for resources from 4G network construction and business development, retention of existing customers, and mobile internet development became relatively high and the relevant capital expenditure and cost continued to rise”.

The company’s profit attributable to shareholders for the nine months of CNY82.6 billion ($13.49 billion) was down 9.7 per cent year-on-year, on revenue of CNY481.24 billion, up 3.9 per cent.

Profit in Q3 was CNY24.86 billion, down 12.4 per cent, on operating revenue of CNY156.6 billion, down 2.1 per cent. According to Reuters, this marks the first year-on-year decrease in quarterly revenue since “at least 2009”.

It said that mobile data traffic for the first three quarters of 2014 increased by 98.6 per cent compared with the same period in 2013, which constituted a major driver of revenue growth.

However, the rate of growth has slowed, impacted by factors including taxation changes, adjustment of interconnect fees, and tariff changes.

Noting the fact that the mobile sector in China is “already in the phase of high penetration rate”, the room for growth in its traditional telecoms business has been “severely restricted”.

It noted a continued decline in its voice and SMS business. Monthly average revenue per user of CNY63 per month was down slightly from CNY64.

Its customer base stood at 799.1 million, compared with 790.6 million at the end of June 2014.