China Mobile ended last year with more than 200 million customers using its 5G network, an increase of almost 50 million in a single quarter.

The Chinese telco’s full-year financial report, published this week, shows that 5G network customers numbered 207 million as of 31 December. It did not provide a comparative figure for the same date a year earlier, having started reporting 5G network customers as recently as Q1 last year. At that stage it had just shy of 93 million 5G customers, rising to 160 million by the end of September. All in all, that’s a pretty rapid growth rate.

5G network customers are essentially customers who have used and continue to use the telco’s 5G network. Like its domestic rivals, China Mobile also shares data on what it terms 5G package customers, or customers who have signed up to attractive 5G tariffs but are not actually using the 5G network. China Mobile had 357 million of those at year-end, up from 165 million a year earlier, but it’s not a figure that really means a lot.

More meaningful is the telco’s average revenue per user. Mobile ARPU came in at 48.8 yuan (around US$7.7), up from CNY47.4 in 2020. China Mobile attributes that 3% increase to customers upgrading to 5G, as well as to the value created from integrated operations. Although the numbers are not huge by Western standards, that’s a fair increase at a time when many telcos are struggling for growth.

Of course, volumes make a big difference. China Mobile’s overall mobile customer base of 957 million – up by 15 million over 12 months – generated CNY848.3 billion ($133 billion) in operating revenue last year, an increase of more than 10%, while telecoms service revenues grew by 8% to CNY751.4 billion.

A customer base of that magnitude requires a lot of infrastructure, and China Mobile is rolling it out. It says it spent CNY114 billion, which amounts to the best part of $18 billion, on 5G last year and has deployed a total of 730,000 5G base stations, including 200,000 using 700 MHz frequencies.

“We have basically achieved continuous 5G network coverage across urban districts, counties, towns and villages, with favourable coverage in some of the key regions and locations, developed villages, key buildings and venues,” the operator said, in a statement accompanying the numbers. “With the number of 5G network customers reaching 207 million, we boast the world’s largest 5G network and customer base.”

Original article can be seen at: