China Mobile said it recorded 70.2 million 5G users by the end of June 2020, although the figure is still a drop in the ocean compared to its overall mobile subscriber numbers.
The Chinese operator has a total mobile subscriber base of 947 million. At 760 million, by far the majority are 4G subscribers.
It said it has now deployed 188,000 5G basestations in over 50 cities in China – and even connected Mount Everest with 5G.
In the first half of 2020, it also signed a 5G co-construction and sharing agreement with China Broadcasting Network Corporation.
Rival operator China Unicom did not appear to provide a figure for 5G subscribers to date, although it did say it had added 150,000 5G basestations in the first half of the year in collaboration with network-sharing partner China Telecom.
The operator has 310 million mobile subscribers in total, of which 239 million are 4G users.
China Unicom said it has deployed a total of 210,000 5G basestations to date, of which it built more than 100,000, and provides coverage in 50 cities.
It aims to have 300,000 5G basestations in service by the end of 2020. The operator also said capital expenditure amounted to RMB25.8 billion (US$3.7 billion) for the first six months.
The Chinese market is a significant one in terms of 5G development, in part because of its huge size and also because it is home to leading 5G vendor Huawei.
As China-based vendors find doors are being shut to them in 5G markets around the world, their home market will become increasingly important.
In terms of their respective business performances in the first half of the year, both operators were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
China Mobile said operating revenue increased by just 0.1% to RMB389.9 billion ($56 billion), while EBITDA fell 3.6% year-on-year to RMB145.7 billion ($21 billion).
China Unicom said revenue increased 4% to RMB138.3 billion ($20 billion), although EBITDA fell 0.1% to RMB49.45 billion ($7.1 billion).
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading