China Mobile, the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, added 3.97 million 5G subscribers in January, according to statistics published on the carrier’s website.
The operator said it ended the first month of 2021 with a total of 168.97 million 5G subscribers, compared to 6.7 million 5G customers in January 2020.
China Mobile’s overall mobile subscriber base was reported as 940.8 million at the end of January, down compared to 941.9 million in December.
The carrier has already deployed over 385,000 5G base stations nationwide, according to recent press reports. Yang Jie, chairman of China Mobile, reportedly said that the carrier finished its annual 5G network build-out target ahead of schedule and has built the world’s largest 5G SA network.
Meanwhile, rival operator China Telecom added 10.67 million 5G subscribers in January to take its total 5G subscribers base to 97.17 million.
China Telecom’s overall mobile base amounted to 352.5 million subscribers at the end of the first months of the year.
China Unicom ended January with 306.3 million mobile subscribers, up from 305.8 million the previous month. The company hasn’t revealed its 5G numbers.
China’s vice-minister of industry and information technology Liu Liehong recently said that a total of 718,000 5G base stations have been built in China, accounting for nearly 70% of the world’s total 5G sites.
During Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2021, taking place this week, the officials said that Chinese carriers have invested more than CNY260 billion ($40.2 billion) to build the world’s largest 5G network.
In a keynote presentation at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, China Telecom chairman Ke Ruiwen urged mobile carriers to adopt network sharing strategies in the 5G era, with the aim of reducing deployment costs and free resources for investment in innovative consumer and business services.
“Given the extremely high operating and constructing costs of 5G infrastructure, network sharing is essential (…) We also are joining hands with partners, and even competitors, for joint research and development on key technologies to accelerate 5G service innovation,” he explained.
Along with China Unicom, China Telecom has deployed 700,000 5G base stations, the executive said.
In September 2019, China Telecom and China Unicom announced that they would jointly build a 5G network in certain parts of China and that they were working together to build 5G networks in 15 cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Nanjing.
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.
Large cities including the capital, Beijing, and Shenzhen already have full 5G coverage and 5G deployments are also accelerating in Shanghai.