Despite fears that 5G subscriptions may have been slowing in China, its two main network operators – China Mobile and China Telecom – have both announced large increases in subscriber numbers this week, totalling more than 28 million new 5G users.
In March China Mobile doubled its 5G customer base, attracting another 16.3 million customers, whilst China Telecom ramped up its migration of LTE subscribers to its new 5G network with 12 million 5G accounts racked up in the first quarter of 2020, taking its total to 16.6 million.
Analysts have been waiting to see what the full impact of coronavrius will be on the Chinese market, and although financial numbers for both companies suffered slightly (China Mobile’s operating revenue fell two percent to CNY181.3 billion), 5G continues to attract new users.
China Telecom chairman and CEO Ke Ruiwen said the operator “took various measures” in the January to March period to mitigate the overall impact of the coronavirus outbreak, and China Mobile chairman Yang Jie said the outbreak had impacted every business, with no exceptions.
“In the face of various challenges including COVID-19, business transformation and upgrade and higher 5G-related costs, the Group will continue to develop new sources of revenue and identify ways to curtail expenses, while taking measures to reduce costs and enhance efficiency,” said China Mobile’s CEO, Yang Jie.
In the first quarter of 2020 both network operators saw subscriber numbers drop, and China Mobile’s subscription base fell by four million, to 946 million. However, numbers rebounded in March, with 6.15 million net additions.
However, the industry-wide drop in mobile subscriptions in the first part of the year has been attributed to the coronavirus, and in China it was likely caused by migrant workers – who often have more than one account – cancelling their work accounts as they were put on lockdown. And as restrictions are lightened, these numbers are expected to go back up.
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