China Mobile, the country's biggest mobile operator, is expected to report low single-digit profit growth in the first half today, reflecting more intense competition and a shift in focus to high-speed mobile service. According to a poll of five brokerages conducted by the South China Morning Post, China Mobile is likely to report a 0.5 to 3.6 per cent increase in net income to between 55.1 billion yuan (HK$62.49 billion) and 56.82 billion yuan. Earnings rose 46 per cent during the same period last year. China Mobile is facing tough competition from rivals China Unicom and China Telecom Corp. In the first six months, China Mobile's share of net new subscribers declined to 60 per cent from about 80 per cent earlier. But the focus will be on to what extent the company is able to boost its revenue from the newly launched Mobile Market download platform and the prospects for its 3G business. 'China Mobile's new move to provide a mobile application download service is a reasonable move to boost average revenue per user [arpu],' Marvin Lo, an analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research, said yesterday. Mr Lo said China Mobile's ambition to promote the Mobile Market platform for leading smartphones from Nokia, Lenovo Group, Dell, Samsung and LG could duplicate the success of its Monternet platform. That mobile platform provides music and graphiics download services. Owing to fierce market competition and the government's policy of lowering telephone bills, China Mobile's arpu is expected to reach 74 yuan per month in the first half, down from 84 yuan last year. UBS said it believed China Mobile would remain the strongest among the three state-owned operators. However, increasing competition and the fact that China Mobile lags behind its rivals in rolling out the mainland's homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G technology remain the main negative factors affecting the company's share price. Macquarie Research said the focus would be on the price elasticity of mobile-telephone bills. Price elasticity suggests that the lower the mobile usage fee, the higher the mobile usage. However, China Mobile experienced a fall in usage after the usage fee declined last year. Macquarie said it expected minutes of usage to grow 2.1 per cent year on year, with arpu down 8.5 per cent to 78 yuan per month. Shares in China Mobile fell 1.48 per cent yesterday to HK$83.05.