Decrease in China’s Mobile Subscribers:
China’s wireless carriers are reporting substantial drops in subscribers as the coronavirus crisis reduces business activity.
China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest wireless carrier, reported its first net decline since starting to report monthly data in 2000. China Mobile subscriptions fell by more than 8 million over January and February, data on the company’s website show.
China Telecom Corp. said it lost 5.6 million users in February, while China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. subscribers fell by 1.2 million in January.
The across the board China subscriber slump indicates that the coronavirus pandemic crisis, which first emerged in China late last year, is crimping growth, even at businesses that provide essential services and earn monthly revenue. ARPU will likely also decline, according to analysts.
Chris Lane, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co said that part of the decrease in wireless subscribers could be due to migrant workers — who often have one subscription for where they work and another for their home region — canceling their work-region account after the virus prevented them from returning to work after the Lunar New Year holidays which began in late January.
While the drop in users is unusual, the total is small relative to total wireless subscriptions, which have risen to a combined 1.6 billion for the three carriers. Things may improve starting this month as work in factories and other businesses in China resumes, Lane said.
Net income fell 9.5% last year at China Mobile, partly on government mandates to cut prices and improve service, but also due to a spike in financing costs – up from RMB144 million ($20.2 million) to RMB3.25 billion ($460 million).
The company, which reported earnings last week, told analysts revenue would remain stable this year, a sign management was not worried about the fall in subscribers.
China Unicom overcame flat revenue growth to post an 11.1% increase in net earnings for 2019. The state-owned telco slashed opex by 22% and marketing cost by 5% to record a 11.3 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) full-year profit.
“In 2019, the domestic telecommunications industry development experienced a short-term pain with weak revenue growth and pressure on industry value,” Chairman and CEO Wang Xiaochu said.
Co-build and Co-share Agreement:
In September 2019, China Unicom entered into a cooperation agreement with China Telecom to jointly build one 5G access network across the country. China Unicom would be doubling it’s own 5G network coverage, bandwidth, capacity and transmission speed, providing users with better experience.
China Unicom said it will actively step up the “co-build and co-share” with China Telecom in areas such as 4G indoor distributed antenna systems, server rooms, optical fiber and pipelines to further enhance network advantages and corporate value.