China Nears 600 Million LTE Subscribers

Sometime during the month of July, the 600 millionth Chinese subscriber will sign-up for an LTE connection to the internet. Subscribers to older 3G technology numbered just over 500 million last month.

More remarkable, LTE subscriptions reached the 600-million mark in just 28 months after passing quickly through 500 million in 26 months. 3G subscriptions took 68 months to achieve 500 million subscribers.

The data were reported July 6 by Counterpoint Technology Market Research, which noted that currently 98% of all smartphones sold in China are LTE-capable.

China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), for example, the largest wireless carrier in the world with more than 816 million subscribers, is also the world’s largest LTE carrier with some 250 million subscribers. It took the massive company just 17 months from launch to amass 170 million LTE subscribers. From the time China Mobile launched its 3G service, it took the company 57 months to sign up the same number of subscribers. China Mobile is expected to boost its total number of LTE subscribers to more than 250 million in 2016.

The fast growth of LTE is due in part to cheap LTE-capable smartphones, which can now be purchased for as little as 400 yuan (about $60). And to improve availability around the country, China Mobile has also built 1.3 million LTE base stations and expects to build 300,000 more this year.

According to Counterpoint’s report, China Mobile is also pushing hard for Internet of Things (IoT) adoption and is increasing its network capabilities to support some 11 million IoT devices this year and nearly 5 billion devices over the next five years. China Mobile expects revenues of $15 billion from the IoT segment over the next four years.