Wang's world

Robert Clark & Fiona Chau
Telecom Asia

In a busy couple of weeks for China Mobile boss Wang Jianzhou, he unveiled the company's app store and made a high-profile visit to Taiwan, signing deals with HTC and Hon Hai. But in between he brought down the company's worst profit performance since its IPO 12 years ago.

The mainland telecom leader announced a first half net profit of 55.3 billion yuan ($8.3 billion), up just 1.4%. But its quarterly earnings were down 1.6% to 30.1 billion, thanks to more aggressive competition from Unicom and Telecom. ARPU was down to 75 yuan from 84 yuan a year ago. The operator has 493 million customers, of whom just one million use the operator's 3G service, based on the locally-funded TD-SCDMA system.

Wang said the lack of TD handsets was the key factor for the slow takeup. "We've taken a number of measures to accelerate TD development and terminals, especially handsets with huge quantity and reasonable prices, is an important factor for TD adoption," Wang said.

Wang said about 50 TD handsets were now available, with one additional model to be launched later this year and five models next year.

China Mobile experienced strong growth in VAS services, with mobile music, gaming and M2M accounting for 28.1% of revenues. The company took the wraps off its Mobile Market apps store on August 17.

It did not disclose the number of apps available, but said content had been provided by more than 200 application developers, handset firms and others. The app store builds on China Mobile's Monternet platform that sold ringtones and other content for WAP phones.

In Taiwan, Wang signed an MoU with smartphone firm HTC to develop TD-SCDMA devices for the mainland market. HTC, the world's biggest maker of Windows Mobile-based smartphones and the first to make a smartphone powered by Google's Android OS, will supply one TD device to China Mobile this year and five next year, Wang said.

The MoU also provides for joint development of future TD-LTE devices. Wang also met with executives of Taiwan wireless carrier Far EasTone, in which it plans to take a 12% stake but does not have the approval of the Taiwan government. He signed a deal with Hon Hai Electronics for the production of an e-reader, and held talks with chipset firm MediaTek about the development of chipsets for TD handsets and the coming Ophone.

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