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The number of mobile subscribers in China reached 756.4 million as of March 2010, up from 725.9 million at the end of 2009. There were 30.464mn net additions in the first quarter of the year, an increase of 4.2%. During 2009, the number of mobile subscribers had risen by 17.4%, which was up on the 13% increase during 2008. With penetration rates of around 56%, China still offers substantial opportunities for growth.
Telecoms operators are still rolling out mobile networks in rural areas, aided by government programs to introduce coverage where fixed line coverage may be weak or non-existant. While this is contributing to overall growth in subscribers, it has weakened ARPUs, which are being pushed down as a result of rising prepaid subscriptions. At the end of 2009, the average ARPU stood at CNY59.37, down from CNY62.90. Falling ARPUs are likely to continue in China despite growth in 3G investments, as 2G subscribers dominate 3G subscribers. Approximately 25% of mobile operators revenues come from value added services.
There were around 18.8mn 3G subscribers in China at the end of March 2010, which accounted for 2.5% of total mobile subscribers. In December 2009 there were around 9.22mn subscribers, while the MIIT states there were 13.25mn 3G users in the same period. Meanwhile, there were some 109.3mn broadband subscribers at the end of March 2010, which represented an increase from the 103.23mn as of YE09. While expanding broadband network coverage continues, operators are also concerned with raising broadband speeds, allowing to support faster downloads of data heavy applications. Furthermore, the launch of WiMAX and the provision of mobile broadband will enable stronger future broadband take-up.
In the latest China Telecommunications market report, there are updated forecasts for the fixed-line, internet and mobile sectors with latest data for the three months ended March 2010.
Author: Paul Chapman, Analyst
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