China Business News, 1/20/10
China Telecom (NYSE: CHA; 0728.HK) has announced that it now has 4.81 mln 3G subscribers. According to statistics from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), by the end of 2009, China had a total of over 15 mln 3G subscribers, of which China Mobile's TD-SCDMA subscribers comprised 5.51 mln.
China Telecom also announced that CDMA terminals grabbed a 23% share of China's handset market in December. According to third-party data, 2009 saw total CDMA handset sales in China of over 30 mln units, with over 600 CDMA terminal models available by the end of 2009. In contrast, when China Telecom took over the CDMA network from China Unicom at the end of 2008, there were only about 150 models of CDMA handset available in the China market.
In 2009, the percentage of CDMA handsets sold through channels other than China Telecom reached 72%.
Editor's Note: China Unicom recently reported that as of the end of December, it had a total of 2.742 mln WCDMA subscribers. The figures above suggest Unicom's total should be closer to 4.7 mln. In a telephone interview with Marbridge, a China Unicom representative explained that Unicom drops from its 3G aggregate subscriber total within 3 months any user who cancels his account or fails to pay his outstanding account balance; it's possible that the MIIT is using a different metric in deciding when to drop an inactive user when calculating China's 3G subscriber total. In a separate telephone interview with Marbridge, a China Telecom representative said China Telecom has, so far, made no official announcement regarding its total number of 3G subscribers, and does not plan to do so until it releases its Q1 2010 earnings report. If the MIIT's method for calculating China's total 3G subscriber base is similar to that used by China Mobile and China Unicom, then China Telecom's current 3G subscriber total would be approximately 6.7 mln, rather than the 4.8 mln figure stated by China Business News.