China Telecom outlined plans to reduce 5G capex by 10.5 per cent year-on-year in 2022, while the total budget is expected to rise 7.3 per cent to CNY93 billion ($14.6 billion) as the operator steps up investments to support industrial sectors.

The company earmarked CNY34 billion for 5G capex compared with CNY38 billion in 2021, seeking to boost coverage in urban areas and high-value indoor locations. The number of 5G base stations in service is expected to increase by 300,000 to nearly 990,000 by the year-end.

In 2021, China Telecom stated it deployed 170,000 of its own 5G base stations and completed standalone upgrades for its entire joint network with China Unicom. Together they switched on 310,000 5G sites in 2020.

In an earnings release, China Telecom chairman and CEO Ke Ruiwen said it aims to capitalise on “strategic opportunities on the cloud and digital transformation fronts” through increased R&D investment and strengthening its talent pool.

Net profit in 2021 grew 24.5 per cent to CNY25.9 billion. Operating revenue rose 11.7 per cent to CNY439.6 billion, driven by a 7.5 per cent increase in mobile service revenue to CNY185.2 billion and 124.1 per cent growth in handset sales to CNY24 billion.

China Telecom added 101.1 million 5G package customers to end the year with 187.8 million, supporting a 2 per cent increase in ARPU to CNY45. Total mobile subscribers increased 21.6 million to 372.4 million.

Average monthly data usage grew from 13.4GB at end-2020 to 24.1GB.

Turnover from its industrial internet business increased 19.4 per cent to CNY98.9 billion, with cloud revenue doubling to CNY27.9 billion.

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