China Mobile to dominate China 4G market

Dylan Bushell-Embling
20 Feb 2013

China Mobile's aggressive early 4G investments will pay off, with the operator expected to capture the majority of the nation's 4G subscribers through to at least 2017, IHS predicts.

The operator is expected to sign up 1 million subscribers to its 4G trial networks this year.

China Mobile first launched its LTE trials in March 2011, and is aiming to have 200,000 TD-LTE base stations deployed by the end of 2013.

By 2014, IHS expects China Mobile to have 14 million LTE subscribers, compared to 4.3 million for China Unicom and 3.2 million for Telecom.

The firm believes that these early investments to allow China Mobile to build a “near insurmountable” subscriber lead by 2015, with 55.1 million 4G users – 34.2 million more than nearest competitor China Unicom.

And by 2017, China Mobile will capture a projected 52% of China's 4G market with 228.8 million subscribers, compared to 114.4 million for China Unicom and 96.8 million for China Telecom.

IHS said China Mobile's strong early 4G efforts demonstrate that the operator is determined not to repeat the mistakes it made with 3G.

An early decision not to deploy 3G cellular infrastructure left it struggling to catch up to its rivals in terms of subscribers' mobile data usage, and therefore revenue generating potential from 3G.

The Chinese government has not yet announced a date for the allocation of 4G licenses, but is rumored to be considering awarding a pre-commercial operating license to China Mobile ahead of its rivals.

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