China’s Big Three operators have all reported a fall in subscriber numbers, likely due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Across January and February this year, Bloomberg reports that China Mobile dropped 8 million subscribers. In January alone, China Unicom shed 1.2 million subscribers, and in February China Telecom lost 5.6 million.
While these figures are substantial, it is worth noting that each of these operators has hundreds of millions of subscribers. However, it is highly unusual for Chinese operators to register any drop in their customer totals.
Given that China has implemented tough measures enforcing isolation and social distancing, it is unlikely that subscribers are voluntarily disconnecting from the outside world by cancelling their contracts.
One explanation for the losses is that many migrant workers take out an additional subscription for their workplace, and likely cancelled these contracts during the lockdown aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.