China’s three state-owned mobile operators edged ever closer to the 1 billion 4G customer milestone during November, though are now unlikely to hit the figure until early 2018.

While monthly additions of LTE connections through 2017 suggested the trio would hit the billion mark by late December, a slowdown in recent months (the operators added a combined 17.2 million 4G subscribers in October and 23.2 million in August) means they will fall tantalisingly short of the figure, at least for the time being.

All told, the operators added 14.9 million LTE users in November, ending the month with a combined total of 981.6 million or 70 per cent of total connections. China Mobile led the charge with additions of 5.23 million taking its 4G total to 633.9 million. China Unicom picked up 5.05 million for a total of 170.4 million, while China Telecom added 4.63 million to end November with 177.3 million.

At the current rate of net 4G additions, the country will cross the 1 billion threshold in early January.