The sum the Chinese mobile operator is tipping into its 5G rollout represents a fivefold increase on what it spent last year.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

March 24, 2020

2 Min Read
China Telecom plans 5X boost in 5G capex

China Telecom is about to put pedal to metal in its 5G buildout, with plans for a fivefold boost in capex this year.

The operator, which has clocked up 10.73 million 5G subscribers, expects to spend 45.3 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) on 5G in 2020 – up from a thrifty RMB9.3 billion ($1.3 billion) last year.

In its 2019 full-year results presentation, China Telecom said last year 5G comprised just 12% of its total capex of RMB77.6 billion ($11 billion). This year it is boosting total capital spending to RMB85 billion ($12 billion), of which 5G will account for 53%.

"The company will push forward 5G network construction on all fronts," said Chairman and CEO Ke Ruiwen.

The company says it has already seen an uptick in ARPU from its 5G customers of around 10%, to RMB91.9 ($13). Each subscriber is consuming 13.2GB of data each month.

It says it is aiming for a "5G-scale breakthrough" this year, targeting an additional 60–80 million subscribers.

It built 40,000 5G basestations and co-shared another 20,000 with China Unicom in 2019, covering 50 cities under a network-sharing arrangement.

As with rivals China Mobile and China Unicom, China Telecom's 2019 numbers show some modest gains against a backdrop of zero growth. (See China Mobile reports 15.4M 5G customers and China Unicom boosts earnings but sales remain flat.)

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

Ke said the company had "capitalized firmly on the invaluable opportunities arising from the digital transformation of the economy and society, as well as 5G commercialization."

It posted a 3.3% fall in net profit to RMB20.5 billion ($2.9 billion) on flat operating revenues of RM375.73 billion ($53.2 billion).

Service revenue improved 2%, including a 4.7% bump in mobile services, but the wireline business shrank by 0.4%. The information and application services segment, which includes cloud, data center and IoT, grew 5% and now accounts for 23% of operating revenues.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were up 12.5% and the EBITDA margin was 3.1 points higher at 32.8%.

The company also achieved positive net cash flow of RMB4.1 billion ($580 million), compared with a loss of RMB2.9 billion ($410 million) in 2018.

China Telecom's stock closed 2.59% lower in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech ( 

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like