China Mobile added a record 68 million new subscribers last year as the nation's largest mobile-telephone operator lured more rural customers from its struggling fixed-line rivals. China Telecom and China Netcom Group Corp, the country's only two fixed line operators, together lost almost seven million fixed-line subscribers last year as cellular-phone firms offered lower rates to budget-conscious farmers and rural workers. China Mobile yesterday said it added 6.55 million new subscribers last month, bringing total customers to 369.3 million by the end of last year. Of the new users, 93 per cent sign up for prepaid services, the company said. China Mobile's smaller rival China Unicom last week announced it had added 17.9 million new users last year for its GSM and CDMA networks. 'Growth is expected to be strong this year as there is still room to lure new customers in rural villages,' said Marvin Lo, a telecoms analyst at Daiwa Institute Research, yesterday. Mr Lo forecast China Mobile would add about 63 million new subscribers this year as farmers and other rural workers find it more cost effective to have a cellular phone rather than a fixed-line one. That is bad news for China Telecom and China Netcom's main business, although a planned restructuring of the industry could see these two firms given access to the more lucrative mobile market. China Telecom said it lost 1.48 million fixed-line users in December bringing total subscribers down to 220.3 million. The company lost 2.71 million users last year. Growth last year 'was significantly less than that of 2006 due to intensified market competition, especially from incoming call packages promotion', China Telecom said. Stronger controls over sales initiatives for low end subscribers led to a net decrease in local access lines from August to December, it said. China Netcom was also hit by so-called mobile substitution, with the company losing 2.52 million users last month. The company had 4.28 million users cancel fixed-line services last year. 'Line losses at China Telecom and China Netcom were mainly wireless fixed-line Xiaolingtong service users,' Mr Lo said. 'As the mobile operators continue to attract users with cheaper tariffs, fixed-line subscribers bases will continue to shrink this year.' The fall in fixed-line users was partly offset by growth in broadband line rentals. China Telecom signed up 6.58 million new broadband lines last year, while China Netcom added 4.35 million broadband lines in the same period.