2007 North Asian - Mobile Communications and Mobile Data Markets

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the Mobile Communications and Mobile Data market in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan. Subjects covered include:

  • Overview, Regional Characteristics, Growth and Market Structure
  • Mobile Technologies - GSM, CDMA, PCN/PCS
  • Mobile Services - Prepaid, fixed-mobile convergence, gaming
  • Mobile Data - Market Overview, SMS, MMS, GPRS, WAP, Mobile TV
  • Overview on 3G
  • Mobile Satellite Services

Executive Summary

This Asia market annual report covers the eight economies in the North Asia sub-region. It takes an overall look at the various telecoms markets, together with a particular look at the mobile communications and data markets in each of the economies.

The markets covered include: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan.

After a period in which Asia’s mobile industry has been one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world, in relative terms a slowdown has occurred, especially in many of the leading national markets in the region. By March 2007, the region had amassed 1.1 billion mobile subscribers. Of these, a total of 645 million were to be found in North Asia. Of course, China dominates the North Asia figures, with its 465 million mobile subscribers.

North Asia mobile markets - subscribers, penetration and annual change - March 2007

Country Penetration Subscribers (million) Annual change
China 35% 465.2 18%
Hong Kong 118% 8.2 8%
Japan 76% 96.7 5%
Macau 145% 0.7 21%
Mongolia 27% 0.8 43%
South Korea 85% 41.1 6%
Taiwan 96% 22.1 4%
(Source: BuddeComm)
Note: North Korea not included.

Highlights in the individual mobile markets of North Asia include:


  • China is by far the largest mobile communications market in the world.
  • By March 2007, China had more than 465 million mobile subscribers or around 35 for every 100 people. At the same time, China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers (316 million by March 2007).
  • The remarkable growth in the mobile sector has been boosted by increased competition, lower terminal prices and the rapid rise of prepaid services.
  • The popularity of the Personal Access System, known as Little Smart and offered by the fixed line operators, has also provided a surprising boost to the market.
  • While its mobile market is booming, China has been equivocating on the 3G mobile front.
  • In an apparent effort to promote its local TD-SCDMA platform, it has delayed the awarding of 3G licences. For the country overview, see chapter 1, page 13.

Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong is seen as one of the most sophisticated and dynamic telecommunications markets in the world.
  • A Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, it has built itself a world-class telecoms infrastructure, which supports one of the world’s highest penetrations of mobile phones and telephone services generally.
  • While the fixed-line market has flattened out, the mobile market has continued to boom.
  • At the beginning of 2006, based on Office of the Telecommunications Authority data, there were an amazing 8.7 million mobile subscribers, representing an impressive penetration of 125%. (Keep in mind that Hong Kong has an adult population of only 5.9 million.)
  • Not surprisingly, in such a boom environment, new generation mobile services have started reshaping the mobile market. For the country overview, see chapter 2, page 58.


  • With its sophisticated infrastructure, Japan’s telecommunications sector is one of the most active markets in the world.
  • Although Japan’s 2G mobile telephone sector has entered a maturing market phase, the overall Japanese mobile market remains dynamic.
  • Its mobile sector has continued to witness strong growth into 2007, with the rapid expansion of 3G mobile services.
  • By March 2007, Japan had almost 97 million mobile subscribers, with almost 70 million subscribers signed up for 3G services.
  • Wireless Internet and mobile services have helped to keep the mobile market stimulated.
  • Japan continued to lead the world in wireless Internet with 85 million subscribers by May 2007.
  • NTT DoCoMo laid claim to more than 50% of Japan’s mobile market into 2007, maintaining a comfortable lead over its rivals KDDI and SoftBank (formerly Vodafone K.K.).
  • DoCoMo had also grabbed the lead from KDDI in the all-important 3G market. For the country overview, see chapter 3, page 89.


  • Macau, like Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, has remained comparatively low profile in the development of its telecommunications market.
  • The SAR has systematically gone about building itself a strong modern telecommunications infrastructure and can now lay claim to a highly penetrated telecom market.
  • Growth in the mobile sector was boosted by the opening up of the mobile market to competition in 2001. With the arrival of two new operators, Macau Telecom’s market share had dropped to about 46% by 2006.
  • Attention has become focused on Macau’s mobile market, where by early 2007 there were 663,000 mobile subscribers, a remarkable penetration of 145%. For the country overview, see chapter 4, page 125.


  • Mongolia has demonstrated its commitment to developing a more efficient telecommunications network as an integral part of its push towards a market economy.
  • A competitive market has been put in place for both fixed and mobile telephony.
  • While the fixed-line network has been expanding slowly, the mobile phone market has undergone a remarkable boom.
  • The number of subscribers had been growing at an average rate of over 100% year-on-year until 2006; during 2006, growth eased to around 50%.
  • By early 2007, there were 784,000 mobile subscribers in the country, representing a penetration of around 27%, up from less than 2% penetration at the end of 2000.
  • Several failed attempts had been made to issue a third mobile licence.
  • However, in June 2006, a third mobile operator, Unitel, was awarded a GSM licence. For the country overview, see chapter 5, page 129.

North Korea

The development of the telecommunications sector in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is seriously impeded by the country’s parlous economic state and government repression of communication. It has been a difficult journey indeed for telecommunications in the DPRK. Though mobile services were finally launched on a limited scale in the capital Pyongyang in 2002, North Korean citizens were banned from using mobile phones as of May 2004. It has been suggested that the ban was imposed following the oil train explosion at Ryongchon in April 2004. It was further suggested that the blast was triggered using mobile phones in an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. North Korea’s obsession with secrecy continues to make it extremely difficult to get a clear picture of the country’s telecoms sector. For the country overview, see chapter 6, page 132.

South Korea

  • South Korea’s mobile market, which had been looking like it had reached a point of saturation, somehow found a way to grow by a further 6% in 2006.
  • Mobile penetration was around 85% by March 2007, the majority of the 41 million services being new generation.
  • 2.5G and 3G mobile services and advanced data services such as mobile gaming, m-banking and m-commerce have helped keep the mobile market invigorated.
  • WCDMA, having entered the South Korean market in December 2003, some time after CDMA2000, initially failed to attract subscribers.
  • However, the upgrading of the WCDMA 3G networks with HSDPA technology gave these services a major boost. For the country overview, see chapter 7, page 134.


  • With its strong focus on the role of technology, and telecommunications in particular, throughout its economy, it is not surprising that Taiwan has one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in Asia.
  • On the back of its excellent telecommunications infrastructure and the innovative use of breakthrough information technologies, the country has been driving the development of both mobile and data communications services.
  • By early 2007, mobile penetration was 96%, the penetration figure having fallen from a peak of more than 111% in 2003.
  • The launch of WCDMA 3G services by the three major operators in 2005 certainly presented a challenge to the market; the take up of new generation services will be watched with interest. For the country overview, see chapter 8, page 173.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

Table of Contents

1.1Overview of China’s mobile market
1.1.1Analysis – prevalence of mobile phones in China’s city centres
1.1.2Statistical overview
1.2Regulatory issues
1.2.1Price wars
1.2.2Subscriber registration
1.2.3Calling Party Pays (CPP)
1.3Mobile technologies
1.3.1Market overview
1.3.3Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)
1.3.4Personal Access System (PAS)/Personal Handy System (PHS)
1.3.5Third Generation (3G) mobile
1.3.6Fourth Generation (4G) mobile
1.3.7Mobile handsets
1.4Major mobile operators
1.4.2China Mobile
1.4.3China Unicom
1.4.4Other mobile operators
1.4.5Mobile multimedia alliance
1.5Mobile voice services
1.5.1Prepaid cards (SIM and PIM cards)
1.5.2Satellite mobile
1.6Mobile data services
1.6.1Market overview
1.6.2Short Message Service (SMS)
1.6.3Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
1.6.4Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
1.6.5General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
1.6.6Push-to-Talk (PTT)
1.6.7Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
1.6.8Broadband wireless data services
1.7Mobile applications
1.7.1Market overview
1.7.2Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
1.7.4Mobile Video-on-Demand (VoD)
1.7.5Mobile gaming
1.7.6Instant Message (IM) search function
1.7.8Push email
2.1Overview of Hong Kong’s mobile market
2.2Regulatory issues
2.2.1Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
2.2.2Spectrum licensing
2.2.3Personal Communications Services (PCS)
2.3Mobile technologies
2.3.1Third Generation (3G) mobile
2.4Major mobile operators
2.4.1Hong Kong CSL
2.4.2New World Mobility
2.4.3CSL New World Mobility Group
2.4.4Hutchison Telecom
2.4.5Peoples (China Resources Peoples Telephone Co Ltd)
2.5Mobile voice services
2.5.1Prepaid cards
2.6Mobile data services
2.6.1Short Message Service (SMS)
2.6.2Multimedia Message Service (MMS)
2.6.3Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
2.6.4Push-to-talk over Cellular (PoC)
2.6.5Mobile TV
2.7Wireless data
2.7.1Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
2.7.2High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data (HSCSD)
2.7.3High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA)
2.7.4General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
2.8Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) services
2.9Mobile content
3.1Overview of Japan’s mobile market
3.1.1Mobile statstics
3.2Market developments
3.3New entrants into the mobile market
3.3.1Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
3.4IP mobile telephony to hit the Japanese market around 2008
3.5Mobile technologies
3.5.1Personal Digital Cellular (PDC),
3.5.2Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)
3.5.3Personal Handy Service (PHS)
3.5.4Third Generation (3G) mobile
3.5.5Fourth Generation (4G) mobile
3.6Major mobile operators
3.6.1Brief company descriptions
3.7Mobile voice services
3.7.1Prepaid cards
3.7.2Mobile Satellite Services (MSS)
3.8Mobile data services
3.8.1Analysis – mobile data market
3.8.2Mobile Internet
3.8.3Short Message Service (SMS)
3.8.4Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
3.8.5General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
3.8.6Push-to-Talk (PTT)
3.9Mobile content and applications
3.9.1Content for mobile market
3.9.2Global Positioning System (GPS)
3.9.3M-commerce / m-cash
3.9.4Mobile gaming
3.9.5Mobile conferencing
3.9.6Mobile videoconferencing / mobile video
3.9.7Mobile TV and radio
3.9.8Mobile ringtone and music downloads
3.9.9QR code readers
3.10Mobile Internet services
3.10.2Mobile Enterprise Alliance Japan
4.1Overview of Macau’s mobile market
4.2Mobile technologies
4.2.1Push-to-talk (PTT)
4.3Major mobile operators
4.3.2Hutchison Telecom Macau
4.3.3SmarTone Mobile Communications (Macau) Ltd
4.3.4China Unicom
5.1Overview of Mongolia’s mobile market
5.1.1Mobile statistics
5.2Major mobile operators
6.1Overview of North Korea’s mobile market
6.2Mobile technologies
7.1Overview of South Korea’s mobile market
7.1.2Mobile statistics
7.1.3Mobile growth forecast
7.1.4Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
7.1.5Mobile phone ‘addiction’ in South Korea
7.2Mobile technologies
7.2.1Analogue (AMPS)
7.2.2Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA)
7.2.3Personal Communication Service (PCS)
7.2.4Third Generation (3G) mobile in South Korea
7.2.5Fourth Generation (4G) mobile in South Korea
7.2.6One-Phone - fixed and mobile services over one device
7.2.7Mobile handset market
7.3Major mobile operators
7.3.2SK Telecom
7.3.4LG Telecom
7.4Mobile voice services
7.4.1Market overview
7.4.2Satellite mobile
7.5Mobile data services
7.5.1Market overview
7.5.2Mobile Internet
7.5.3Short Message Service (SMS)
7.5.4Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
7.5.5Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
7.5.6Push-to-Talk (PTT)
7.6Mobile content and applications
7.6.2Video calls
7.6.3Position location system / Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
7.6.4Automobile telematics
7.6.5M-commerce / m-payment
7.6.6Mobile banking (m-banking)
7.6.7Mobile government (m-government)
7.6.8Mobile TV broadcasting / Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB)
7.6.9Mobile Video-on-Demand (mobile VoD)
7.6.10Remote home monitoring
7.6.11Multi-lingual service
8.1Overview of Taiwan’s mobile market
8.1.1Mobile statistics
8.2Regulatory issues
8.2.1Impact of competition
8.2.2Low tier mobile licences
8.3Mobile technologies
8.3.1Third Generation (3G) mobile
8.3.2Next generation services
8.3.3Mobile handset market
8.4Major mobile operators
8.4.1Chunghwa Telecom
8.4.2Far EasTone Telecommunications
8.4.3KG Telecom
8.4.4MobiTai Telecom
8.4.5Taiwan Mobile (formerly Taiwan Cellular)
8.4.6Asia Pacific Broadband Wireless (APBW)
8.4.7VIBO Telecom
8.5Mobile voice services
8.5.1Prepaid cards
8.5.2Personal Handyphone Service (PHS) / Personal Access System (PAS)
8.6Mobile data services
8.6.1Short Message Service (SMS)
8.6.2Multimedia Messaging System (MMS)
8.6.3Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
8.6.4General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
8.6.5Mobile Internet
8.6.6Video calls
8.6.7Push-to-Talk (PTT)
Exhibit 1 – Restructuring in China – scenario 1
Exhibit 2 – Restructuring in China – scenario 2
Exhibit 3 – MVNO licensees* in Hong Kong – 2006
Exhibit 4 – Overview of licences awarded to mobile carriers in South Korea
Exhibit 5 – Wireless Internet services in South Korea
Exhibit 6 – Comparison of S-DMB and T-DMB application in South Korea
Exhibit 7 – Mobile data licence winners in Taiwan

Table 1 – Mobile statistics in China – 2006
Table 2 – Mobile subscribers by operator and annual change in China – 2006
Table 3 – Mobile subscriber growth in China – 1995 - 2007
Table 4 – Little Smart subscribers – 2002 - 2007
Table 5 – Prepaid mobile subscribers by operator in China – 2005
Table 6 – Mobile statistics in Hong Kong – February 2007
Table 7 – Mobile subscriber growth in Hong Kong – 1995 - 2007
Table 8 – Mobile service revenue in Hong Kong – 1992 - 2006
Table 9 – PCS subscriber growth in Hong Kong – 1997 - 2006
Table 10 – 3G mobile subscriber growth in Hong Kong – 2005 - 2007
Table 11 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual change in Hong Kong – 2006
Table 12 – Operator market share by subscribers in Hong Kong – 2003 - 2006
Table 13 – CSL New World subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 14 – New World Mobility subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2005
Table 15 – Hutchison subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 16 – Peoples subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 17 – SmarTone subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 18 – Sunday subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 19 – Prepaid SIM card growth in Hong Kong – 1997 - 2007
Table 20 – Monthly SMS volume in Hong Kong – 2002 - 2006
Table 21 – 2.5G subscriber growth in Hong Kong – 2002 - 2006
Table 22 – MVNO subscriber growth in Hong Kong – 2005 - 2007
Table 23 – Mobile statistics in Japan – May 2007
Table 24 – Mobile subscriber growth in Japan – 1995 - 2007
Table 25 – Mobile subscribers by system in Japan – May 2007
Table 26 – cdmaOne subscribers in Japan – 1999 - 2007
Table 27 – CDMA2000 1x subscribers in Japan – 2003 - 2007
Table 28 – WCDMA subscribers in Japan – 2003 - 2007
Table 29 – PHS subscribers by carrier in Japan – 2005 - 2007
Table 30 – PHS subscribers in Japan – 1995 – 2007
Table 31 – 3G mobile operators, technology and subscribers in Japan – 2006
Table 32 – NTT DoCoMo FOMA WCDMA subscribers – 2001 - 2007
Table 33 – Mobile subscribers by operator in Japan – December 2006
Table 34 – Prepaid mobile subscribers in Japan – May 2007
Table 35 – Mobile wireless Internet subscribers by providers in Japan – May 2007
Table 36 – Mobile wireless Internet subscriber growth in Japan – 2000 - 2007
Table 37 – Mobile statistics in Macau – April 2007
Table 38 – Mobile subscriber growth in Macau – 1990 - 1996; 1998 - 2007
Table 39 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual change in Macau – 2006
Table 40 – Mobile statistics in Mongolia – March 2007
Table 41 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual change in Mongolia – March 2007
Table 42 – Mobile subscribers, penetration and annual change in Mongolia – 1996 - 2007
Table 43 – Mobile statistics in North Korea – 2005
Table 44 – Mobile statistics in South Korea – March 2007
Table 45 – Mobile subscriber growth in South Korea – 1994 - 2007
Table 46 – Mobile subscribers and market share by operator in South Korea – March 2007
Table 47 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual change in South Korea – March 2007
Table 48 – Overall mobile ARPU by operator in South Korea – 2006
Table 49 – CDMA2000 1x subscribers by operator and system in South Korea – 2004; 2007
Table 50 – WCDMA* subscribers by operator in South Korea – March 2007
Table 51 – Mobile statistics in Taiwan – 2006
Table 52 – Mobile subscriber growth and penetration in Taiwan – 1995 - 2006
Table 53 – 3G mobile subscriber growth and market share in Taiwan – 2003 - 2006
Table 54 – Mobile services revenue in Taiwan – 1992 - 2006
Table 55 – Mobile services ARPU in Taiwan – 2G and 3G – 2005 - 2006
Table 56 – 3G mobile subscriber growth in Taiwan – 2003 - 2006
Table 57 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual change in Taiwan – 2006
Table 58 – Subscribers and market share by operator in Taiwan – 2006
Table 59 – Chunghwa Telecom mobile subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 60 – Far EasTone mobile subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 61 – KG Telecom mobile subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 62 – Taiwan Mobile subscribers and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 63 – APBW mobile subscribers and annual change – 2003 - 2006
Table 64 – VIBO Telecom mobile subscribers and annual change – 2005 - 2006
Table 65 – Prepaid 2G subscribers – market share in Taiwan – 2000 - 2006
Table 66 – PHS subscriber growth in Taiwan – 2001 - 2006
Table 67 – SMS message volume and revenue in Taiwan – 2001 - 2006
Table 68 – WAP subscriber growth in Taiwan – 2001 - 2006
Table 69 – GPRS subscriber growth in Taiwan – 2001 - 2006

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Number of pages 215

Status Archived

Last updated 16 Oct 2007
Update History

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

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