China's mobile subs base shrinks by 20M

All the latest mobile subscriber numbers are in for China's big three operators and each one of them saw significant falls (see chart).

Both China Mobile and China Unicom shed around 7 million customers during February, while China Telecom saw its subscriber base shrink by about 5.5 million.

In total, then, nearly 20 million people in China – roughly the population size of New York – failed to renew their mobile subscriptions in the space of four weeks.

Table 1: Mobile subscribers in China: 5G arrival doesn't prevent dip in overall subs

Dec-19 Jan-20 Feb-20
China Mobile 950.28 million 949.42 million 942.16 million
China Unicom 318.48 million 317.29 million 310.69 million
China Telecom 335.57 million 336.00 million 330.40 million
Source: Operators

COVID-19 is clearly taking its toll, although the wireline broadband segment is holding up: Each of China's big three reported little movement here compared with January.

China Mobile still hovers around the 188 million subscriber mark in the fixed broadband space, while China Telecom and China Unicom remain steady at 152 million and 84 million respectively.

5G inroads
Although it's still early days to gauge how much mass appeal 5G may have in the near to medium term, China Mobile more than doubled subscriptions to the next-gen tech in a matter of weeks, climbing from 6.7 million (January) to 15.4 million the following month.

China Telecom reported 10.7 million 5G subs in February (it did not share figures for the previous month). China Unicom does not break out its 5G numbers.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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