China Mobile, the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, added 44 million 5G subscribers in the third quarter of 2020, the carrier said in its earnings release.
The state-run telco said it ended September with a total of 114 million 5G subscribers, compared to 70 million 5G customers at the end of June.
The company’s overall mobile subscriber base was reported as 946 million, down 1 million in the quarter.
The operator’s net profit declined 0.3% year-on-year in the first three quarter of the year to CNY81.6 billion ($12.2 billion), with operating revenue increasing 1.4% to CNY574.4 billion.
China Mobile’s service revenue climbed 2.5% to CNY525.7 billion, while product sales declined 9.2% to CNY48.7 billion.
“Facing the challenges resulting from increasing costs incurred by 5G operations and maintenance and business transformation, the company will allocate resources by adhering to the principle of ensuring a sufficient budget for areas essential to promote growth, while reducing and controlling expenses on certain selected areas. In addition, it will take further measures to reduce costs and enhance efficiency, alongside efforts to maintain good profitability,” China Mobile said.
In April, China Mobile had awarded most of a CNY37.1 billion 5G contract to compatriot vendors Huawei and ZTE, according to previous reports. Huawei won 57.3% of the value of contracts across 28 provinces, with ZTE taking 28.7%, Ericsson 11.5% and China Information Communication Technologies 2.6%.
In the new phase of its 5G program, China Mobile was aiming to acquire over 232,000 5G base stations as it looks to extend coverage to 28 regions across China.
The Chinese carrier has already completed the first phase of its 5G network deployment. Currently, China Mobile provides 5G coverage over 50 cities. The operator is aiming to have a total of 300,000 5G sites across China by the end of 2020.
In its first tender, conducted in 2019, the operator selected Nokia and Ericsson as well as Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) recently stated the country has now built more than 600,000 5G base stations and that data shows that the number of devices connecting to the network has exceeded 150 million, with more than 110 million users in China having already signed up for 5G plans.
In June 2019, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) officially issued licenses for the launch of commercial 5G networks in the country. Those 5G permits were granted to China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and state-owned broadcaster China Broadcasting Network.