China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL) is the world’s largest telecom operator in terms of subscribers. It provides communications and related services through its nationwide mobile telecommunications network. It also designs and sells electronic communication products such as 3G handsets. Due to industry growth and increased competition, the telecom sector is witnessing mergers and acquisitions.
In the first quarter of 2013, China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL)’s revenue reached 134.7 billion Yuan ($21.8 billion), up 5.7% year-over-year, while the net income rose to 27.9 billion Yuan ($4.5 billion) up 0.3%, from 27.8 billion Yuan a year earlier (expected profit was 28 billion Yuan). The net margin decreased by 1.1%, making it 20.7%. The total subscriber base went up by 2.25% y/y, reaching 726.31 million subscribers.
Dipping market share
China is the largest market with more than one billion mobile connections and a penetration rate of nearly 75%. China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL), China Telecom Corporation Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CHA) and China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CHU) are the leading players in the Chinese market. China Mobile is the market leader with a total market share of 64%, which fell 2% from last year, while China Telecom gained 2% market, share reaching 14%. China Unicom maintained its market share at 20%.
4G technology is the future driver
China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL) disclosed in its annual report that it will be spending $6.7 billion on building a new 4G network. This TD-LTE 4G network will attract 500 million users in 100 Chinese cities. The new 4G network is significant for China Mobile because it has a smaller 3G market share in comparison to its competitors. 3G network subscribers account for 25% of the entire China market subscriber base, which went up by 7% in the quarter ended March 13. China Mobile 3G market share fell to 63% from 72% in 2009. Over the same period, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CHU) gained 1%, reaching 21% while China Telecom Corporation Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CHA) gained an increase of 7%, reaching 15%. The reason behind China Mobile’s falling 3G market share is its TD-SCDMA technology, which limits internet downloading speed to 2.8 Mbps. China Unicom uses a WCDMA technology, which allows a downloading speed of 21 Mbps, while China Telecom’s CDMA 2000 technology can allow 3.1 Mbps nationwide and 9.3 Mbps in some parts of the country.
China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL) uses a TD-LTE technology, a technology developed in and for China. China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited (ADR) (NYSE:CHU) has been giving a tough challenge to China Mobile by using an Internet access system based on 4G technology, instead of TD-LTE technology. This internet access-based technology, called FDD-LTE, is used by U.S and European telecom operators. China Unicom also announced plans to build a 4G network after the company receives the Chinese official grant license. This Unicom delay is useful for China Mobile, as it has already started working on its 4G network. 4G licenses are expected to be issued by the end of this year.