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China - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 15 Jul 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 130

Analyst: Sebastien De Rosbo

China aiming for one million 5G base stations by end-2020

The Chinese telecom market is the largest in the world in terms of subscribers. Market development has generally been driven by investments from government-allied entities and features a strongly guided industrial policy.

The continuing sector growth and transition from infrastructure and service provision to application creation and user demand stimulation has also driven the fast-developing data centre market.

The fixed-line sector continues to decline in the wake of subscriber migration to mobile platforms for voice and data services. This trend is expected to continue during the next five years, with an associated growth in the number of mobile broadband subscribers.

The government is aiming to provide universal and affordable broadband coverage through market competition and private investment in state-controlled enterprises such as Broadband China and Internet Plus. As a result, fixed broadband penetration has grown steadily in recent years. The focus on fibre has meant that the number of fibre-based connections has grown particularly strongly, with the DSL and cable segments declining as subscribers migrate to fibre infrastructure.

The mobile market has recently been characterised by lower subscriber growth, though this is in line with higher penetration. Profit among the MNOs has also been affected, as competition has encouraged them to provide very cheap plans, both for LTE and now for 5G services. Given the requirements for continued investment in network expansion and upgrades, this pricing competition is unsustainable in the medium term.

By early 2020 the number of mobile subscribers had broached 1.6 billion however, growth is expected to be relatively slower due to a saturated and mature market over the next five years. Market growth will be characterised by the cannibalisation of platforms, with 3G and LTE subscribers migrating to 5G in response to considerable efforts by the government and MNOs to promote 5G both for end-users and for various industrial sectors.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key Developments

  • Chinese data centre market continues with rapid transition;
  • Fixed-line penetration seeing a steady fall;
  • Government strengthens IoT policies to boost economic growth;
  • China’s telcos make rapid progress with 5G network rollouts;
  • Report update includes telcos’ operating data to May 2020, CAICT industry data to April 2020, assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.

Key companies mentioned in this report:

China Mobile; China Telecom; China Unicom, Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu, Tencent

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