China Mobile has begun its foray into the 4G market with the launch of next-generation high-speed data services in Hong Kong.
China Mobile, which is the world’s largest mobile phone carrier by subscriber base, has also begun testing wireless data technology in mainland China, with hopes pinned on having its service up and running within two years.
The company will be the second operator to offer this type of high-speed data service in Hong Kong, following Australian telecommunications company Telstra, which began offering 4G services in 2010.
Eyeing Apple iPhone
China Mobile is the sole mobile operator in mainland China that does not have a contract to sell Apple’s iPhone, and 4G technology may provide the company with the boost it needs to secure a deal with the US company.
With over 660 million users, China Mobile’s subscriber base represents a huge opportunity for it to become a leader in the 4G market. However, many of its subscribers are currently 2G users.
China Mobile already provides 3G data connections, but its service is based on inferior TD-SCDMA technology, which was developed in China and is not supported by Apple and other smartphone manufacturers.
Mobile Data Revenu On The Rise
As mobile companies make advances in 4G technology, mobile data revenue is growing ever higher, with voice services revenue falling by the wayside.
However, upgrading current infrastructure is a massive undertaking for China Mobile, and in a nation where many mobile users only make phone calls or send text messages, the shift to high-speed 4G services could take some time.
China Mobile posted profit of almost 28 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) for the first quarter of 2012, which is 3.5% higher than the same period last year. Data revenue was singled out as a main contributor to the increase.
Subscribers to China Mobile’s new 4G services in Hong Kong will have access to cross-border data transfer plans when travelling in mainland China, which should help cut back on roaming expenses.
Key Statistics - China Wireless Telecommunications Market (source: MarketLine)
- In China, the wireless telecommunication services market, including mobile phones, pagers and other wireless or cellular telecommunication services, posted revenue of almost $93 billion in 2010, representing an annual growth rate of more than 27% between 2006 and 2010.
- Market consumption volume grew at an annual rate of almost 17% for the same period, topping close to 860 million subscribers in 2010.
- Market performance is expected to slow in the period between 2010 and 2015, with annual growth slowing to 16% annually, which is forecast to push the market to a value of $192 billion through 2015.