China Mobile has been heavily pushing its 4G offering, and this effort began to pay off at the end of 2015.
The Chinese market leader acquired 45 million new 4G connections in November and December 2015, bringing its overall 4G connections to 312 million – although this is just a fraction of the staggering 222 million 4G customers it gained over the whole of 2015.
This substantial increase means that 4G connections now represent 37% of China Mobile’s user base, which totals 826 million. The operator has a 63% share of the Chinese mobile market, and was gaining around 17.7 million new 4G connections on a monthly basis from January to October 2015. This figure ticked up to 22.5 million in the final two months of the year.
China Mobile’s 4G gains have apparently come at the expense of its 3G numbers, which have dropped from 246 million to 167 million over the past year. However, its overall subscriber numbers rose by 19 million.
Meanwhile, its main rival had mixed fortunes. Number three China Telecom gained a further 12.3 million connections in 2015 to bring its total to 198 million, representing a 15% market share. While the operator does not officially provide separate figures for its 3G and 4G subscribers, GSMA Intelligence has pegged its 4G connections at 55 million.
Second-placed China Unicom did not fare so well, with its user base falling steadily over 11 consecutive months to a final figure of 286.7 million – down roughly 10 million from the end of 2014. Its 4G numbers are also significantly lower than its rivals at 17 million.