China Telecom posts first rise in mobile user base

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 February, 2009, 12:00am
 

China Telecom yesterday reported the first net increase in the number of its mobile subscribers since it acquired mobile-telephone businesses last year, while bigger rival China Mobile, posted a moderate slowdown in its new customer number growth.

China Telecom, the mainland's largest fixed-line operator, added 1.02 million wireless users last month, taking the total to 28.93 million at the end of January, the company said on its website yesterday.

The net increase followed net losses of 60,000 subscribers in December, 430,000 in November and 680,000 in October, when it completed the acquisition of the CDMA mobile business from China Unicom.

'We believe [the increase] is due to aggressive CDMA marketing efforts and strong subsidies,' said a Morgan Stanley report, adding that the result was even stronger than Unicom's average net increase of 361,000 subscribers from January 2007 to April last year before the industry restructuring.

Deutsche Bank analysts said China Telecom was articulating a successful subscriber acquisition strategy and expected the firm's average monthly net additions this year to reach 2.5 million, driving the total number of CDMA customers up to 58 million by year-end.

But the operator continued to lose fixed-line subscribers last month, posting a net loss of 970,000 customers, which reduced its total users to 207.4 million. The loss stemmed from the carrier trimming its low-end Xiaolingtong subscriber numbers.

China Mobile said its net increase in new subscribers was 6.67 million for January, including a one-off gain of 226,000 from a service switch from TD-SCDMA. By comparison, its new customer numbers grew to 7.07 million in December.

'The slowing pace of net increases is not surprising because of intensified competition in the market and macroeconomic headwinds,' an analyst said. 'We have forecast the slowdown.'

The total number of China Mobile customers at the end of January was 463.92 million.

But the analyst said China Mobile still dominated the market given its 75 per cent share of the market for new subscribers.

China Unicom (Hong Kong) said on Thursday that it added 839,000 mainland mobile-telephone subscribers last month, a figure analysts viewed as disappointing. Its total mobile subscribers number stood at 134 million last month.

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