MIIT: China has 260M 5G subs; Telecom business revenue significantly increased

China telecom regulator MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) revealed this week that China has 260 million 5G subscribers at the end of February 2021.  That is a huge number and more than the rest of the world combined [1.], but still a long way short of the 361 million claimed by the three operators. in February.

  • China Mobile reported 173.2 million 5G package customers compared to 15.4 million 5G customers in February 2020.  China Mobile’s overall mobile subscriber base was said to be 937.16 million at the end of February, down from 940.86 million in January.
  • China Telecom added a total of 6.2 million 5G subscribers in February 2021 for a total of 103.4 million.
  • China Unicom had 84.5 million 5G subscribers at the end of February 2021.

Note 1. GSA says that global 5G subscriptions grew by 57% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to reach nearly 401 million globally (representing 4.19% of the entire global mobile market).  By the end of 2025, 5G will account for 31% of the global market (at 3.39 billion subscriptions), although LTE will still be dominant at 53.3% of all global mobile subscriptions.

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China’s vice-minister of industry and information technology Liu Liehong recently said that a total of 718,000 5G base stations have been built in China, accounting for nearly 70% of the world’s total 5G cell sites.

During Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2021, government officials said that Chinese carriers have invested more than CNY260 billion ($40.2 billion) to build the world’s largest 5G network.

MIIT further stated:

The growth rate of telecom business revenue has increased significantly. From January to February, the total revenue of telecommunications services reached 237.3 billion yuan, an increase of 5.8% year-on-year, and the growth rate increased by 4.3 percentage points year-on-year. The total telecommunications business calculated at the constant price of the previous year was 249.1 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 25.9%.

The scale of mobile phone users is basically stable, and 5G users are developing rapidly. As of the end of February, the total number of mobile phone users of the three basic telecommunications companies reached 1.592 billion, a year-on-year increase of 0.8%. As of the end of February, the number of 5G mobile terminal connections of the three basic telecommunications companies reached 260 million, a net increase of 61.3 million from the end of the previous year, accounting for 16.3% of mobile phone users.

Light Reading’s Robert Clark wrote: “The three (China) telcos’ annual filings over the past two weeks indicate that between them they spent a hefty 173 billion yuan ($26.5 billion) on 5G and they’re not slowing down; they’ve set aside another 185 billion yuan for 2021.”

“Their pricing, with plenty of encouragement from government officials, is also aggressive, with China Mobile’s 5G entry package costing just 128 yuan ($19.56). The heavy investment and the moderate pricing in pursuit of national objectives is why their results indicate little reward for the effort so far.”

MIIT also commented on other telecom services (besides 5G):

Data and Internet business revenue accounted for 60%, supporting the steady growth of overall telecom business revenue. From January to February, the three basic telecommunications companies completed fixed data and Internet business revenues of 41.5 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 10.2%, accounting for 17.5% of telecommunications business revenues, accounting for a year-on-year increase of 0.8 percentage points, driving a 1.7 percentage point increase in telecommunications business revenue . The revenue from mobile data and Internet services showed a decline for the first time. The completed business revenue was 106.2 billion yuan, a year-on-year decrease of 1.2%, and its share of telecom business revenue fell to 44.7%.

Fixed and mobile voice services declined steadily, and their share of telecom business revenue continued to decline. From January to February, the three basic telecommunications companies completed fixed voice and mobile voice business revenues of 3.82 billion yuan and 18.64 billion yuan, a year-on-year decrease of 1.1% and an increase of 5.0%, respectively, accounting for 9.5% of the total revenue of telecommunications services, and a decrease of 0.1%. Percentage points. The rapid growth of income from emerging businesses has strongly promoted the growth of telecom business income. The three basic telecommunications companies are actively transforming and upgrading, promoting IPTV, Internet data centers, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other emerging businesses. From January to February, they completed a total of 36.2 billion yuan in related business income, a year-on-year increase of 28.9%. The proportion increased sharply by 2.8 percentage points year-on-year to 15.3%, driving the growth of telecom business revenue by 3.6 percentage points.

The proportion of fixed broadband access users with speeds above 100M has exceeded 90%, and the number of gigabit users has continued to increase. The total number of fixed Internet broadband access users reached 492 million, a year-on-year increase of 8.9% and a net increase of 8.67 million from the end of the previous year. Among them, there are 463 million FTTH/O users, accounting for 94% of the total number of fixed Internet broadband users. The number of fixed Internet broadband access users with an access rate of 100Mbp and above reached 450 million, accounting for 90.4% of the total number of users, an increase of 0.5% from the end of the previous year; the promotion of gigabit broadband services was accelerated, and the access rate of 1000Mbps and above was fixed. The number of Internet broadband access users reached 8.03 million, a net increase of 1.63 million over the end of the previous year.

Mobile Internet traffic increased significantly, and DOU remained at a relatively high level in February. From January to February, the cumulative mobile Internet traffic reached 30.9 billion GB, a year-on-year increase of 31.8%. Among them, the Internet traffic through mobile phones reached 29.7 billion GB, a year-on-year increase of 31.2%, accounting for 96% of the total mobile Internet traffic. In February, the average mobile Internet access traffic (DOU) per household was 10.85GB/household, which was 1.97GB/household higher than the same period last year.

The penetration rate of fixed broadband access users of 100M and above tends to be even in all regions. As of the end of February, fixed broadband access users of 100Mbps and above in the eastern, central, western and northeastern regions reached 189.68 million, 11.17 million, 116.57 million and 26.74 million, respectively, accounting for 89.3. %, 91.7%, 90.8% and 91.8%. The difference between the highest proportion of fixed broadband access users above 100M and the lowest proportion in each province was 15.3 percentage points.

China Unicom and China Telecom say nearly a quarter of their mobile customers are on 5G plans.  Chna Unicom boosted ARPU 4%, while China Telecom reported 5G ARPU nearly 50% above its blended ARPU.

China Mobile reported a 1% rise in profit but, despite the huge 5G subscriber base, recorded another decline in mobile ARPU.One winner for China Mobile was broadband access, which grew 17%, while China Telecom and China Unicom both experienced large increases in their smart home services.

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Editorial Comment:

Many experts don’t trust economic numbers released by China’s government. Questions over the accuracy of China’s economic data, including industry groups like telecom, persist due to the lack of transparency used in the collection process. Critics say the government does not state how the data is collected or the different components that form the final numbers that are released to the public.

The methodology China uses to calculate its economic and industry data is opaque, and some knowledgeable people even accuse the government of abruptly changing methods without announcement to distort figures and hide declines.

The motivation seems to be to make China’s economy and industry groups look much stronger than they really are.

Most analysts treat any official Chinese data with caution and skepticism.  Yet they have few, if any ways to establish an alternative, more accurate assessment of the world’s second-largest economy.

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References:

https://www.miit.gov.cn/gxsj/tjfx/txy/art/2021/art_82f101e1d078447fac75443a50348b7c.html

https://www.lightreading.com/asia/china-5g-race-taking-its-toll-on-operators/d/d-id/768369?

https://gsacom.com/paper/lte-and-5g-subscribers-march-2021-q4/

https://www.rcrwireless.com/20210323/5g/chinsese-carriers-add-almost-17-million-5g-customers-february

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/10/21/china-mobile-has-114m-5g-package-subscribers-vs-204m-broadband-wireline-customers/

Analysis and Implications: China’s 3 Major Telecom Operators to be delisted by NYSE

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) said it will delist China’s three large state owned telecom carriers. The move was expected after a November U.S. government order barring Americans from investing in companies it says help the Chinese military.

Senators want review of Chinese telecoms' approvals to operate in US

China Telecom should be banned from operating in US, departments say | South China Morning Post

The NYSE said it would suspend trading in securities issued by China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom by January 11th.  The big board also said it would also halt trading in closed-end funds and in exchange-traded products listed on its NYSE Arca exchange if they hold banned China stocks.

The U.S. Defense Department (DoD) had previously listed the three companies as having significant connections to Chinese military and security forces.  The delisting highlights the faltering of long-established business ties between the United States and China, which were set up over decades as China sought to internationalize and reform its state-run corporate behemoths (see China-U.S. Cold War backgrounder below).

The NYSE decision is the latest setback for these companies, which rank among the largest global telecommunications providers.   The exchange’s decision is unlikely to seriously harm the Chinese telecom giants in the near term. Mounting pressure from Washington has already stymied their ability to operate in the U.S., a country that makes up a negligible amount of their international business.

China’s top three network providers still benefit from hundreds of millions of customers in their home country. That has attracted investors to their Chinese-listed shares. The cellphone carriers have spent billions of dollars on new fifth-generation wireless networks over the past two years with support from officials in Beijing, who have called 5G upgrades a national priority.

All three telecoms companies operate under Beijing’s firm control. They are ultimately owned by a government agency, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, and are often ordered to pursue Beijing’s goals. China’s ruling Communist Party sometimes shuffles executives among the three companies.

They are the only three companies in China that are permitted to provide broad telecommunications network services, which Beijing regards as a strategic industry that must remain under state control.

Xi Jinping, China’s top leader (President of the People’s Republic of China 中华人民共和国主席), has talked about making state companies bigger and stronger rather than more streamlined. That has led to concerns among some economists and entrepreneurs that the Chinese government is taking a greater role in private enterprise.

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Impact of the Delisting:

At the same time, the imminent delisting of several major Chinese companies will get the attention of portfolio managers, after a year long push to ensure Chinese firms’ compliance with U.S. audit rules. While the final outcome of that effort is unclear, the NYSE decision underscores the fraught politics of the U.S.-China relationship as the Trump administration comes to a close.

“The delisting issue is a live one with financial clients,” said Leland Miller, chief executive of China Beige Book International, which provides data on China’s economy to international investors. “There are some jittery people out there.”

On Friday, China Unicom said it would release a statement in due course. Neither China Telecom or China Mobile responded to WSJ requests for comment.

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China Telecoms Shares Greatly Underperform:

China Mobile’s U.S. stock is thinly traded compared with its Hong Kong securities, FactSet data shows. About 2.1 million American depositary receipts traded daily on average over the past three months, compared with 34 million Hong Kong shares a day. Each ADR is equivalent to five ordinary shares in Hong Kong.

U.S. shares in China Mobile, the largest of the three companies by market value, declined 29% over the past year, according to FactSet, while China Telecom dropped 30% and China Unicom fell 39%. Over the same span, the S&P 500 index returned 18% and the communications-services sector of the MSCI World Index rose 22%. All figures reflect total returns, including dividends.

Over the past decade, China Mobile shares have declined 15% including dividend payments, FactSet data show, while China Telecom has dropped 32% and China Unicom has fallen 54%. The S&P 500 has gained 267% on the same basis and the MSCI World communications sector has gained 165%.

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Backgrounder:  China vs U.S. Cold War:

An executive order signed by President Trump in November will block Americans from investing in a list of companies the U.S. government says supply and support China’s military, intelligence and security services. The ban starts on Jan. 11 and investors have until November to divest themselves of their holdings.

The list currently includes 35 companies—including China’s largest chip maker—as well as surveillance, aerospace, shipbuilding, construction and technology companies.

It wasn’t initially clear whether the order covered subsidiaries as well as parent companies, and U.S. government leaders clashed over how broad the blacklist should be, The Wall Street Journal reported in December.

The Chinese government has accused Washington of misusing national security as an excuse to hamper competition and has warned that Trump’s order would hurt U.S. and other investors worldwide.

Political analysts expect little change in policy under President-elect Joe Biden due to widespread frustration with China’s trade and human rights records and accusations of spying and technology theft.

U.S. officials have complained that China’s ruling Communist Party (CCP) takes advantage of access to American technology and investment to expand its military, already one of the world’s biggest and most heavily armed.

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References:

https://ir.theice.com/press/news-details/2020/NYSE-to-Commence-Delisting-Proceedings-in-Securities-of-Three-Issuers-to-Comply-with-Executive-Order-13959/default.aspx

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nyse-to-delist-chinas-major-telecommunications-operators-11609498750

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/01/business/nyse-delist-china-mobile.html

https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-business-hong-kong-china-08e71111b26c119048c523c5ba3ebde5

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January 5, 2021 UPDATE:

The New York Stock Exchange reversed its decision to delist China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom before it becomes effective.

NYSE said that “in light of further consultation with relevant regulatory authorities in connection with Office of Foreign Assets Control FAQ 857, available here, the New York Stock Exchange LLC (“NYSE”) announced today that NYSE Regulation no longer intends to move forward with the delisting action in relation to the three issuers enumerated below (the “Issuers”) which was announced on December 31, 2020.”

Meanwhile, the reversal is not yet final, as the NYSE maintained that it would “continue to evaluate the applicability of Executive Order 13959 to these Issuers and their continued listing status.” There is no substantiated evidence that pressure from China or intervention from the incoming Biden administration has played a role in the change of mind by NYSE.

Technically all the three Chinese state-owned telcos are listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (HKEX), and what’s traded in New York is an instrument called American depositary receipts (ADRs), which enables American investors to trade on foreign companies listed elsewhere.

On Monday, as a response to NYSE’s delisting announcement, the three telcos updated the market that ADRs represent between 3.3% and 8% of their total tradable shares. According to an earlier response by China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to NYSE’s original decision, the three operators’ ADRs only account for less than 2.2% of the equity shares of these companies, with “a total market capitalization of less than 20 billion RMB yuan” ($3.1 billion). China Mobile is the heaviest user of this instrument, accounting for 90% of the total value.

According to the Treasury Department, if NYSE’s original decision to delist were to go ahead, these companies would also need to be eliminated from other financial instruments, including derivatives, depositary receipts, exchange-traded funds, index funds, and mutual funds. The reversal of decision may have taken away the requirement for traders to make immediate changes in their products, some measures may still be needed as a precaution, and the actions may not be limited to the three telcos.

In December two index providers, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones have both removed a number of Chinese companies from some of their indexes following the executive order. There are 35 companies on the Treasury Department’s list compiled for this particular executive order, including, in additions to the three operators, the usual suspects like Huawei and SMIC.

NYSE U-turns on delisting Chinese telcos

January 6, 2021 Update:

New York Stock Exchange Reverses Course Again, Will Delist 3 Chinese Telecom Firms After All!

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City on March 20, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

China Mobile has 114M “5G Package” subscribers vs 204M broadband wireline customers

China Mobile announced yesterday that it had approximately 946 million mobile customers as at 30 September 2020, which was down about 1 million from the previous quarter.  There were 770 million 4G customers and 114 million 5G package customers. The latter number is a 44 million increase in the past three months. However, the growth in 5G subscribers is not quite what it seems. Like China Telecom, China Mobile uses the term “5G package customers,” which counts 4G customers on 5G plans. [The 3rd state owned China telco – China Unicom – does not yet give a breakout of 5G subs from its mobile subscriber base.] The 4G subscriber base, reflecting some migration to 5G package plans, shrank by 10 million during Q3-2020.

During the first three quarters of the year, China Mobile handset data traffic increased by 35.0% year-on-year to 65.3 billion GB with handset data DOU reaching 9.1GB. Total voice usage dropped by 7.1% year-on-year to 2,258.0 billion minutes, showing a further reduced rate of decline. Total SMS usage rose by 15.5% year-on-year to 713.0 billion messages and maintained favourable growth. Mobile ARPU continued to demonstrate a flattened rate of decline, dropping by 2.6% year-on-year to RMB48.9 for the first three quarters of the year.

As of 30 September 2020, China Mobile’s total number of  broadband wireline customers was 204 million, with a net increase of 17.17 million for the first three quarters of the year. Wireline broadband ARPU amounted to RMB32.4.

Slight of hand: China Mobile's growth in subs includes 4G customers on 5G plans.

Image Credit: China Mobile

China Mobile said it will “continue to put in an all-out effort to implement the “5G+” plan, further promote scale-based and value-oriented operations and foster the all-round development of CHBN markets, thereby maintaining growth in telecommunications services revenue for the full-year of 2020.”  The Group acknowledged the increasing cost associated with 5G operations and maintenance, but did not elaborate on what those costs were:

Facing the challenges resulting from increasing costs incurred by 5G operations and maintenance and business transformation, the Group will allocate resources by adhering to the principle of ensuring a sufficient budget for areas essential to promote growth, while reducing and controlling expenses on certain selected areas. In addition, it will take further measures to reduce costs and enhance efficiency, alongside efforts to maintain good profitability. The Group will maintain stable profit attributable to equity shareholders for the full-year of 2020, continuously creating value for investors.

Ericsson, which previously received a $593 million 5G contract with China Mobile for base stations wrote in an email to Light Reading: “”We have been riding on the investments in China and there are likely to be more than 500,000 base stations by the end of the year in China launched on 5G and of course we are quite pleased to participate in that rather fundamental and quite strong rollout.”

Market research firm Dell’Oro forecasts that China’s 5G rollout will drive an 8% increase in worldwide sales of radio access network products this year. Excluding China, it forecasts no growth in the RAN infrastructure market. Additional highlights from Dell’Oro’s 2Q2020 RAN report:

  • 5G NR radio shipments accelerated 5x to 6x during 1H20, driven by robust growth in China.
  • Millimeter Wave 5G NR deployments continued to advance rapidly, with revenues growing nearly four-fold.
  • Initial estimates suggest that vendor rankings remained stable between 2019 and 1H20, while revenue shares changed somewhat as the Chinese suppliers reached new revenue share highs.
  • Near-term RAN forecast has been adjusted upward, to reflect the faster-than-expected growth in China.

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References:

https://www.chinamobileltd.com/en/file/view.php?id=237832

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/china-mobile-5g-subs-top-114m-in-q3/d/d-id/764778?

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/ericsson-rides-high-on-china-5g-boom/d/d-id/764770?

Huawei Executive: “China’s 5G user experience is fake, dumb and poor”-is it a con game?

RAN Market Growth Accelerated in 1H20, According to Dell’Oro Group

China Mobile and Huawei deploy 5G base station at 6,500m on Mt Everest!

China Mobile and Huawei have together built the highest elevation 5G (or any other) base station on this planet– at 6500 meters (21,300 feet) at Mount Everest where there are no roads or trails. [Note that the summit is 8,848 meters, but will be measured again this year].

The base station along with two others at lower elevations, will enable China Mobile to run its 5G wireless network on the world’s highest mountain.  It will surely be a great aid to climbers which had to previously use satellite phones for ultra high altitude communications with their high camps.

Zhou Min, general manager of Tibet branch of China Mobile, said the facility will ensure reliable telecommunication for the activities of mountain climbing, scientific research, environmental monitoring and high-definition live streaming. The building of 5G infrastructure is in tandem with the measuring of the height of the peak, which officially started on Thursday.

“It comes on the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest from the northern slope and the 45th anniversary of China’s first official accurate measurement of Mount Everest,” declared the press release. “Significantly, the 5G network on Mount Everest will provide communication services for the 2020 Mount Everest re-measurement.”

How high is Mount Everest in meters, feet, km & miles

The base station launch marks the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascension of Mount Everest from the northern slope. Base stations are now at the Mount Everest Base Camp at 5,300 metres, the Transition Camp at 5,800 metres, and the Forward Camp at 6,500 meters.

A China Mobile technician told state media that the new 5G network is fast enough for climbers and scientists to have 4K and VR live streaming on the mountain.

Huawei’s 5G AAU and SPN technologies were applied at the base stations, managed and maintained by a dozen network specialists stationed there 24/7 at altitudes of 5,300 meters and above.

Huawei claims that its 5G AAU is highly integrated into a compact size, making it easy for deployment and installation and it fits particularly well for infrastructure in extreme environments such as Mount Everest. In this project, a network in the “stand-alone plus non-stand alone” (SA+NSA) mode connects five 5G base stations.Meanwhile, the 5G connectivity is achieved by Huawei’s Massive MIMO technology.

Huawei’s Massive MIMO comes with three-dimensional narrow beams. At an altitude of 5,300 meters, the 5G download speed exceeded 1.66 Gbps, where the upload speed tops 215 Mbps, claims Huawei. Some of the other technologies being employed by the Chinese telecom equipment giant are Intelligent OptiX Network and HoloSens intelligent video surveillance system.  The 5G base station at Everest base camp includes a Gigabit ONT, Huawei’s 10G PON OLT and 200G ultra-high-speed transmission platform, and the HoloSens intelligent video surveillance system.

Pictures of 5G Base station at 6500 meters   Photo credits: Huawei

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The press release concluded as follows:

Huawei strongly believes that technology means to make the world better.  The beauty of Mount Everest can be displayed via 5G high-definition video and VR experience, which also provides further insights for mountaineers, scientists and other specialists into the nature. The ground-breaking establishment on Mount Everest once again proves that 5G technology connect mankind and the Earth harmoniously.

References:

https://www.huawei.com/en/press-events/news/2020/4/china-mobile-huawei-deliver-world-highest-5g

https://www.bloombergquint.com/technology/5g-signal-now-available-on-mount-everest-peak

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/gadgets-news/china-mobile-and-huawei-establish-worlds-highest-5g-site-on-mount-everest/articleshow/75493507.cms

 

 

China Mobile says COVID-19 effected Q1 2020 Results: Loss of 4M 4G subs, 31.7M 5G subs

China Mobile’s  first quarter 2020 earnings report was somewhat disappointing, save for 5G.  Revenues, earnings and profits all decreased for the first quarter as the world’s largest mobile operator felt the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The state owned telco lost 4 million customers which is < 1/2% of their customer base in the first quarter.  There were 946 million total China Mobile subscribers at the end of March 2020.

Revenues fell 2%, to 181.3 billion Chinese yuan (US$25.6 billion), compared with the year-earlier period, while revenue from telecommunications services was RMB168.9 billion, up by 1.8% over the same period last year.  Profit attributable to equity shareholders was RMB23.5 billion ($3.3 billion), down by 0.8% over the same period last year.

The company (referred to as “the Group”) addressed the impact of COVID-19 in their Q1 2020 earnings report:

COVID-19 posed an impact on the overall society and economy in the first quarter of 2020. The Group’s business development was no exception. In light of COVID-19, the Group has introduced “three safeguards” which endeavoured to provide reliable communications, maintain service continuity and step up comprehensive prevention and control measures. Leveraging the demand for informatization services brought about by measures to prevent and control COVID-19 and the resumption of work and production, the Group has also accelerated business transformation and upgrade.

The Group’s total number of mobile customers was around 946 million as at 31 March 2020. Among them, the numbers of 4G customers and 5G package customers were 752 million and 31.72 million, respectively. During the first quarter of the year, data traffic business maintained growth momentum with handset data traffic recording a year-on-year increase of 43.4% and handset data DOU (average handset data traffic per user per month) reaching 8.3GB. Total voice usage declined by 16.3% year on-year to 661.4 billion minutes, which was attributable to OTT substitution and COVID-19.

Buoyed by the rapid growth of corporate SMS, total SMS usage rose by 45.4% year-on-year. Mobile ARPU dropped by 6.7% year-on-year to RMB46.9 for the first quarter of the year and the decline rate has moderated compared to that of the previous year. As at 31 March 2020, the total number of wireline broadband customers was 191 million, with a net increase of 4.10 million for the first quarter of the year. Wireline broadband ARPU amounted to RMB31.3.

Amidst COVID-19, the Group’s telecommunications services revenue grew by 1.8% year on-year to RMB168.9 billion for the first quarter of 2020. Currently, measures to prevent and control COVID-19 are still underway and some impact may carry over.

The Group will continue to foster business transformation and upgrade and make an all-out effort to promote the coordinated development of the CHBN four major markets. It will also continue to optimize its revenue structure and strive to maintain growth in telecommunications services revenue for the full-year of 2020. The Group’s revenue from the sales of products and others went down by 34.9% year-on year to RMB12.4 billion for the first quarter of the year. The decline was mainly caused by contracted sales of handsets and IoT devices, amongst other products, due to COVID-19.

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The figures seem to vindicate arguments that China Mobile will prove fairly resilient to COVID-19 as a critical lifeline to the wider world for people under lockdown/ shelter in place orders. While customer numbers fell in mobile, there was no decline at China Mobile’s fixed-line business, which picked up another 4 million broadband customers to finish March with 191 million in total. On the mobile side, usage of traditional voice services fell from 278 minutes per user each month in the final quarter of 2019 to just 234 minutes in the first quarter of 2020. Mobile data usage, though, rose from 7.1 to 8.3 gigabytes per month over the same period.

Largely due to China government incentives, China Mobile now claims nearly 32 million 5G customers, up from just 2.6 million in December 2019. Sustain that rate of growth and the operator would be on course for almost 120 million 5G customers by the end of this year. That may be difficult once China Mobile has attracted all the early 5G adopters.  It will be interesting to see how soon the major improvements brought by 3GPP Release 16 (scheduled to be frozen in early July 2020) will be implemented by the Group’s network equipment vendors- principally Huawei and ZTE.

Signage for China Mobile Ltd. is displayed outside a store in Shanghai.

Key Insights From Bloomberg:

  • The carrier, which has more than 940 million subscribers, may benefit in the months ahead as economic activity begins to return toward normal. The expansion of 5G coverage planned this year may also help lure subscribers to higher priced heavy-data plans.
  • While the company is spending to expand 5G networks, it has also been maintaining dividend levels and had cash and bank deposits of about 317 billion yuan as of the end of last year.
  • Attracting 5G subscribers is a key for growth as those users tend to spend more per month. The company had about 31.7 million 5G subscribers as of the end of March.
  • While total subscribers fell in the first quarter, the carrier benefited from a slight rise in average revenue per user from the previous quarter as the introduction of 5G networks made it easier for users to play richer video games and use applications that consume more data.

Iian Morris, International Editor at Lightreading wrote in a blog post:

A challenge for the Group is to meet the investments required for 5G infrastructure.  China Mobile has earmarked RMB100 billion ($14.1 billion) for capital expenditure on 5G in 2020, an increase of 317% on what it spent in 2019, according to market-research firm Omdia (owned by market research goliath Informa). Its plan is to add at least 250,000 5G base stations by the end of this year.

Meeting this commitment will be difficult as earnings and cash flow are squeezed by COVID-19. Just-published figures show that earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization fell nearly 6% in the first quarter, to RMB68.5 billion ($9.7 billion), compared with the year-earlier period. Under government pressure to hit deployment targets, China Mobile may look to reduce costs in other parts of the business to offset the increase in spending on 5G. “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,” it says in its statement.

Hacking into headcount will be difficult if China Mobile is to avoid disruption to 5G buildout and sales and marketing activities. Nevertheless, the operator may be able to realize some cost savings through pruning of a workforce that numbered as many as 456,239 employees at the end of last year. While major US operators have slashed tens of thousands of roles in recent years, China Mobile seems to have been a lot more cautious on the jobs side: Its staff numbers have fallen less than 1% since the end of 2016.

The latest update on 5G will be a further concern for US officials already worried about falling behind China in the development and rollout of the new network technology. With at least 30 million 5G customers, China already has enough users of the service to spur the development of new commercial applications that might not be feasible in the old 4G world. That is exactly what the US does not want to hear.

References:

https://www.chinamobileltd.com/en/file/view.php?id=228270

https://www.lightreading.com/asia/china-mobile-misplaces-4m-customers-but-finds-another-30m-for-5g/d/d-id/759007?

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-20/china-mobile-lost-almost-4-million-subscribers-in-first-quarter

China Telcos Lose Subscribers; 5G “Co-build and Co-share” agreement to accelerate

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.

China Unicom 5G network

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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.Image result for pic of china telecom

References:

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/china-s-mobile-carriers-lose-15-million-users-as-virus-bites-1.1410626

https://www.telecomlead.com/5g/china-unicom-reveals-5g-network-capex-plans-94530

China Mobile has 15.4 million 5G customers; 5G+ is primary focus area

China Mobile today published its 2019 annual financial report, stating that the company’s operating revenue reached CNY745.9 billion -a year-on-year increase of 1.2% – and its net profit was CNY106.6 billion ($15 billion) – a year-on-year decrease of 9.5%.

The fall in net profits was largely due to a spike in financing costs – up from RMB144 million ($20.2 million) to RMB3.25 billion ($460 million).

Operating revenue was just 1.2% higher, at RMB745.9 billion ($104.8 billion), while telecom services revenue improved by a meager 0.5%.

A few highlights:

  • The largest China telecom network provider acquired 15.4 million 5G customers in the first three months after launch.
  • In 2019, China Mobile’s mobile users increased by 25.21 million, reaching a total of 950 million. Its mobile Internet data traffic increased by 90.3% year-on-year and its mobile Internet DOU reached 6.7GB.
  • Wireline broadband customers grew by 30.35 million to a total of 187 million.
  • China Mobile’s family broadband users reached 172 million, an increase of 17.1% year-on-year. Its family broadband comprehensive ARPU reached CNY35.3.
  • At the end of 2019, China Mobile’s government and corporate clients reached 10.28 million, a year-on-year increase of 43.2%. The company’s international business revenue saw a year-on-year increase of 31.4%.

Mr. Yang Jie, China Mobile’s Chairman of the Board said in the press release:

“We were faced with a challenging and complicated operating environment in 2019 where the upside of data traffic was rapidly diminishing and competition within the telecommunications industry and from cross-sector players was becoming ever more intense. Coupled with this was the impact of government policies, including the continued implementation of the “speed upgrade and tariff reduction.”

Against this backdrop, all of us at China Mobile joined together to overcome these hurdles and work towards our ultimate goal of becoming a world-class enterprise by building a dynamic “Powerhouse”. This was centred on the key strategy of high-quality development, supported by a value-driven operating system that leverages our advantages of scale to drive further convergence, integration and digitization across the board.

We structured our organization to enable effective and synergetic capability building and collaborative growth, while nurturing internal vitality. In addition, we further implemented our “5G+” plan to spearhead the development of “four growth engines”, comprising the “customer,” “home,” “business” and “new” markets. These measures have helped us obtain positive momentum in overall operating results, which was a hard-earned achievement for us in a tough year.”

Yang noted that the COVID-19 epidemic had driven more and more businesses and consumers online and encouraged greater takeup of digital and cloud-based services.  “We will leverage these opportunities, as well as the 5G network, to further develop the information and communications services market.”

Business Market:

The “business” market was China Mobile’s new growth engine and we strove to nurture new growth points by fully leveraging our cloud and network convergence advantages, building on our DICT (data, information and communications technology) infrastructure comprising IDC, ICT, Mobile Cloud, big data and other corporate applications and information services. Buoyed by active promotion of our “Network + Cloud + DICT” smart services, customers and revenue recorded rapid growth.

As of the end of 2019, the number of corporate customers increased to 10.28 million, representing year-on-year growth of 43.2%.

Focusing on key sectors such as industry, agriculture, education, public administration, healthcare, transportation and finance, the company deepened go-to-market resources to promote DICT solutions that cater to sector-specific scenarios. This strategy has boosted DICT revenue to RMB26.1 billion, or growth of 48.3% year-on-year, contributing a larger portion of our overall revenue.

“5G+” Achieved a Good Start:

China Mobile sped up the development of 5G and have been fully implementing its “5G+” plan since June 2019, when we were granted the 5G licence. These initiatives have shown good initial results.

The company actively participated in setting international standards for 5G to drive technological development. It led 61 key projects in relation to 5G international standards setting and own more than 2,000 5G patents. It also helped to continuously strengthen the Standalone 5G (within 3GPP Release 15 and 16).

Its “six international standards (3GPP specifications are not standards) on 5G system architecture” and “38 international standards including 5G NR (New Radio) terminals and base station radio frequency” scooped all the top prizes in the 2019 Science and Technology Awards presented by the China Communications Standards Association, demonstrating our leadership in 5G communications standards.

At the same time, the company accelerated the implementation of “5G+” by formulating well- coordinated development of 5G and 4G. It constructed and began operating more than 50,000 5G base stations and launched 5G commercial services in 50 cities. Emerging technologies such as AI, IoT (Internet of Things), cloud computing, big data and edge computing were assimilated into 5G (5G+AICDE) and developed more than 200 critical capabilities, while making breakthroughs in over 100 5G joint projects.

In terms of 5G+Eco, we aimed to develop the ecosystem with other industry players. Through its 5G Innovation Centre and 5G Industry Digital Alliance, more than 1,900 partners were attracted.

The 5G Device Forerunner Initiative, guiding manufacturers to launch 32 5G devices, was established. The level of maturity was basically the same between the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz industry chains. Benefiting from forward-looking planning and effective execution, we expanded 5G+X, where “X” stands for the wider application of 5G, in applications that have been adopted by a plethora of industry sectors, as well as the mass market. For the latter, we launched exclusive plans for 5G customers and feature services such as ultra-high definition videos, cloud-based games and full-screen video connecting tones. As of the end of February 2020, our 5G plans attracted 15.40 million package customers – maintaining an industry-leading position.

In terms of vertical sector, China Mobile explored the possibility of combining 5G with AICDE capabilities, extending collaboration in the industry and deep-diving into classic manufacturing scenarios to develop our leadership in 5G smart manufacturing, 5G remote medical services and 5G automated mining, among other sectors. A total of 50 group-level demo application projects were implemented.

Looking ahead, 5G presents infinite possibilities. China Mobile will continue to take a systematic approach to planning and steadily implementing our “5G+” initiatives. The company will speed up technology, network, application, operations and ecosystem upgrades, accelerate industry transformation by converging technologies, integrate data to strengthen information transmission in society, and introduce digitized management to build the foundation for digital society development. By doing so, China Mobile will seek more extensive 5G deployment, covering more sectors and creating greater efficiency and social value.

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UPDATEhttps://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/03/23/china-telcos-lose-subscribers-5g-co-build-and-co-share-agreement-to-accelerate/

References:

https://www.chinamobileltd.com/en/file/view.php?id=226450

https://www.chinatechnews.com/2020/03/19/26442-china-mobile-net-profit-down-9-5-in-2019

https://www.lightreading.com/asia/china-mobile-reports-154m-5g-customers/d/d-id/758329?

China’s big 3 mobile operators have 9 Million 5G subscribers in advance of the service; Barron’s: China to lead in 5G deployments

According to Beijing News, the three major (state owned) China mobile network operators have already signed up 9 million advance orders for their yet to be launched 5G service.   As of October 5th, China Mobile’s 5G subscribers have reached 5.32 million, China Unicom has 1.75 million, China Telecom has 1.76 million, and the total number of committed 5G users is nearly 9 million.

The three China network operators haven’t set a date for the start of service, but will reportedly commence simultaneously, most likely later this month of October.  However, there are not many 5G smartphones (only two or three models) and no other endpoints (none announced yet) available from the three major China network operators.  The preferential price is between 150 yuan and 550 yuan.

On September 20, Xu Ximing, deputy general manager of the marketing department of China Mobile Group Corporation, said at the China Mobile 5G+ Innovation Cooperation Conference that China Mobile is accelerating the pace of 5G commercialization. The 5G package will be officially released in October, including basic packages and CPE packages. And upgrade plans for old users. Customers will enjoy the “three different fast” login to the 5G network, that is, the 5G terminal does not need to change the card, does not need to change the number, does not need to register, and multi-channel fast order 5G network service.

  • The China Unicom prices web page shows that the current campaign supports two mobile phones, Samsung Note 10+5G version offers 500 yuan, and vivo’s iQOO Pro 5G version offers 400 yuan. Telecom’s purchase discounts are 150 yuan for iQOO Pro, 300 yuan for ZTE Axon 10 Pro, and 550 yuan for Samsung Note 10+.
  • For China Mobile’s preferential prices, Xiaomi 9 Pro 5G version is offered for 300 yuan, China Mobile’s pioneer X1, Samsung Note 10+ 5G version  offer is 500 yuan. China Mobile told the Beijing News that more 5G models will be added in the future.

China Mobile Pioneer X1

China Mobile Pioneer X1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, a 6.47-inch AMOLED display with a  waterdrop notch. The display supports FHD+ resolution and also houses an on-screen fingerprint scanner. Housed inside the waterdrop notch is a powerful 20MP camera.

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Note: Although Samsung continues phone sales in China, last week the handset maker ceased its mobile phone production operations in China as it closed its last factory in the country, according to Reuters.

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China’s 5G network coverage is progressing rapidly and the 5G network is increasingly equipped with a formal commercial foundation. Recently, the official statistics of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economics and Information Technology state that the three major network operators have completed more than 8,800 5G base stations in Beijing, covering areas along Chang’an Avenue, the World Expo, CCTV Broadcasting Center, and Shougang Park.

According to a message released by the Beijing Communications Administration, it is expected that by the end of 2019, Beijing will build more than 10,000 5G base stations.  According to the current construction progress, the number of 5G base stations in Beijing is expected to reach 12,000 by the end of the year. Among the other three first-tier cities, Shanghai plans to build 10,000 5G base stations in 2019 and 20,000 5G base stations in 2020; Guangzhou proposes to complete no less than 20,000 5G base stations in 2019, and 5G will be built in 2021. The base station is 65,000; the plan for Shenzhen is to build 15,000 5G base stations by the end of 2019.

With the spread of 5G networks, innovative applications in various 5G environments are emerging and even landing. On September 25, Daxing International Airport was officially opened. Eastern Airlines, Beijing Unicom and Huawei jointly released a 5G-based smart travel integrated service system at Daxing International Airport. Under the system, the user does not need to present the ID card and the QR code as usual, and only needs face recognition to complete the travel process such as ticket purchase, check-in, check-in, security check, and boarding.

China’s government is partially subsidizing 5G deployments as we note in several paragraphs below:

  • The Shenzhen city government is offering to pay operators RMB10,000 ($1,398) for every standalone 5G base station deployed, with a maximum payout of RMB150 million ($20.9 million).  Its 5G plan issued last month promises support for site acquisition and subsidies for base station electricity costs.  The tech-dominated Chinese city, home to Huawei, ZTE and Tencent, plans to install 15,000 5G base stations by the end of 2019 and 45,000 by next August (more on this below).
  • Almost every Chinese city or provincial government has a 5G development plan.  While many are light on specifics, some reveal big ambitions.  For example, the government of Zhejiang, the wealthy province near Shanghai, expects to have 30,000 base stations next year. It plans to complete its 5G rollout by 2022, by which time its coverage will “lead the country.”
  • The north-west province of Shanxi — not known for its advanced tech industries — has also made 5G a top priority. It has bench marked its 5G rollout against other provinces and, like Zhejiang, has set a target of 30,000 base stations by 2022.  And the city is also offering subsidies for base station power costs and help in site selection.

Image result for image of 5G in China

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From an article titled, “The Real 5G Winner Could Be China,” in the October 7, 2019 print edition of Barron’s:

Multiple Wall Street analysts are getting more optimistic about China’s 5G build out. For instance, Rosenblatt Securities notes that local governments in the Asian country are providing subsidies to “speed up 5G network deployments.” As a result, Rosenblatt says, more than 300 cities in China will have 5G networks by the end of next year. Even Hall, the Goldman Sachs 5G skeptic, expects 120 million 5G smartphones to ship next year, largely because of China’s aggressive build out.

In a report this past week, Piper Jaffray analyst Harsh Kumar cited a Chinese think tank that sees China-based companies spending $411 billion on 5G networks from 2020 to 2030. Of the 600,000 5G base stations expected to be rolled out worldwide next year, Kumar says half will be deployed in China: “We expect 2020 global [5G] deployments to largely be driven by the Chinese market.”

5G may come together slowly in the U.S. market, but China is serious about winning the race.

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References:

https://tech.sina.com.cn/t/2019-10-06/doc-iicezzrr0343842.shtml

https://www.lightreading.com/asia-pacific/china-telcos-rack-up-9m-5g-advance-subs/d/d-id/754643?

https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-real-5g-winner-could-be-china-51570228459

https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-the-race-to-dominate-5g-china-has-an-edge-11567828888

Conflicting reports: Huawei and China Mobile may buy Brazil carrier Oi

The O Globo website reported on Saturday that Huawei is joining forces with China Mobile to buy struggling Brazilian carrier Oi, in an attempt to boost their footprint in Latin America’s largest market.  The two Chinese companies anticipate a significant growth in business once Brazil starts deploying its 5G network. Oi’s 360,000 kilometers of fiber infrastructure is seen as an attractive asset.

Oi declined to comment on the matter, while Huawei and China Mobile did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

However, on Sunday Huawei told Reuters it was not interested in acquiring struggling Oi or any other Brazilian carrier.

“Huawei has no plan or interest in acquiring Oi or any other Brazilian carrier. In Brazil for more than 20 years, the company is working with all major Brazilian carriers supplying the best products and solutions to support digital transformation in Brazil,” the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

It would be very strange for Huawei to invest in a telecom carrier which is traditionally its bread and butter customer!

Brazil’s largest fixed-line carrier has been struggling to turnaround its business since it filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2016 to restructure approximately 65 billion reais of debt.  Oi is also negotiating its network with Spain’s Telefonica and Telecom ItaliaAT&T and another (unnamed) Chinese company.

Speculation of the bid comes as Brazil’s Senate approved a bill to update the country’s obsolete framework for telecommunications, paving the way for Oi to implement a plan to sell up to $2 billion in non-core assets. Earlier this week, Suno Notícias reported that China Mobile has filed a request to operate in Brazil and eventually acquire Oi. The country’s telecom regulatory agency Anatel said Sept. 17th it didn’t have any official information regarding the request.

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Addendum: Huawei launches new ‘Vision TV’ with 4K quantum dot color, which comes in 55″/65″/75″ sizes. Media paying attention to the fact that Huawei is adopting QD technology, which until now has been a key technology for Samsung’s TV (QLED) strategy. (ZDNet)

http://www.zdnet.co.kr/view/?no=20190920082939

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References:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-oi-m-a-huawei-tech/huawei-to-join-forces-with-china-mobile-to-bid-for-brazils-oi-report-idUSKBN1W60EH

https://www.euronews.com/2019/09/22/huawei-denies-interest-in-acquiring-oi-or-any-other-brazilian-carrier

 

 

China Mobile reveals 5G network expansion plans; China Telecom and China Unicom agreement on 5G network sharing

Lu Lu, a senior researcher at the China Mobile Research Institute, said in an industry speech last week that China’s largest wireless network operator expects its 5G network to reach 50 cities by the end of 2019 and 300 major cities by the end of 2020.  Ms. Lu said that China Mobile aimed to reach commercial scale in 5G by June next year and that 5G private networking will be a major new enterprise network service.  Edge computing, which was not used for 4G-LTE, was seen as essential for delivering customizable private networks, she said. The flexible architecture of the new 5G network was the critical factor, allowing for much more granular services and applications.

In addition, China Mobile is planning to offer network slicing services by the middle of next year when its standalone 5G network achieves commercial scale.  That despite no standards for network slicing interoperability between different vendors.

“At present, China Mobile has reserved hundreds of nodes in edge computing rooms. Based on these nodes and 5G networks we will carry out trials of relevant edge computing services,” Lu said. China Mobile and its partners hoped to provide “full-stack edge-computing capabilities to industry customers,” she added.

The Chinese telco is building a “one-stop cloud-network convergence platform” that can provide customized service capabilities in both centralized data centers and data centers at the edge of cities around the country, Lu said.  The operator has issued network slicing templates for six industry verticals — power grid, autonomous driving, gaming, entertainment, banking and medical.  In partnership with Ericsson, China Mobile exhibited a network slicing-based autonomous vehicle application at MWC2019 in Barcelona earlier this year.

Earlier this year, Ms. Lu delivered a speech to introduce the achievements of the cooperation between China Mobile, Huawei, and Baidu, and elaborated on the concept of “5G network as a service”. She also invited partners to jointly build the 5G ecosystem and continuously promote the maturity of 5G technologies and industry development.

China Mobile Executive Vice-President Li Zhengmao has said he believes private networking and network slicing offered some of the best prospects among new 5G services.

Operators can create a network-slicing-as-a-service business model, providing high-reliability, high-performance and easy deployment for the vertical industry through a centralized network slicing service platform,” he said in an interview with state news service Xinhua.

But he acknowledged that the lack of clear business models in industry partnerships was one of the biggest problems.

China Mobile has set up a 5G Joint Innovation Center to drive application development, with more than 500 industry partners and more than 400 vertical industry partners, Li said.

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Separately, China Telecom and China Unicom, agreed to share the efforts to build and maintain 5G radio access networks across the country.  The purpose is to accelerate deployment and slash associated infrastructure costs.

Each wireless carrier will be responsible for operating their own core networks, but will share spectrum resources and a single RAN network (which typically accounts for around 80 per cent of an operator’s capex). Under the agreement, the two companies will be individually responsible for construction and maintenance in specific regions.

In a statement China Telecom said: “The commencement of the co-build and co-share cooperation is beneficial to the efficient construction of [the] 5G network and will rapidly create 5G service capability to enhance network quality and business experience.”

It added the reduced costs would reinforce market competitiveness and achieve a win-win for both parties.

Both operators will continue to handle core networks and branding completely independently, with the collaboration only applying to the construction and ongoing maintenance of physical infrastructure assets. The network will use the companies’ combined spectrum.

In 2016, the operators collaborated on 4G network construction, a move which reportedly saved China Unicom millions in capex within the first year and helped the two better compete with the country’s largest operator, China Mobile.

References:

https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/china-mobile-eyes-network-slicing-market-in-2020-/d/d-id/753963?

https://www.mobileworldlive.com/featured-content/top-three/china-operators-ink-5g-network-share-deal/

https://www.huawei.com/en/press-events/news/2019/4/huawei-china-mobile-baidu-5g-vertical-lan