China Mobile recorded a double-digit drop in profit and falling service revenue in the first nine months of 2019, as it faced increased competition and a continued decline in ARPU.

In a statement, chairman Yang Jie said the market experienced ever-intensifying competition within the telecoms industry and from cross-sector players. “The operating environment became more complex and was full of uncertainty. Confronted with these challenges, the group has maintained a clear focus on high-quality development, supported by solid progress in its business transformation and upgrade.”

Net profit for the January to September period dropped 13.9 per cent year-on-year to CNY82.8 billion ($11.8 billion), which it said was caused by a drop in revenue and increased spending on its business transformation.

Operating revenue dipped 0.2 per cent to CNY567 billion, while telecoms service turnover fell 1 per cent to CNY513 billion. The operator said the decline was due to the limited upside for data traffic growth and the carryover effect from the elimination of domestic data roaming charges in July 2018. Product sales increased 8.9 per cent to CNY53.7 billion.

The operator added nearly 23 million new subscribers to end September with 942 million. Its 4G user base grew by 34 million to 747 million, giving it 79.3 per cent LTE penetration.

Mobile ARPU fell 9.8 per cent to CNY50.20 at end-September. Average monthly data usage increased from 3.1GB in Q3 2018 to 6.6GB in Q3 2019.