China takes to mobile web

17 March 2011

BEIJING: Increasing numbers of Chinese consumers are using the mobile internet and making payments via wireless devices, figures from China Mobile show.

The world's biggest mobile operator by subscriber levels had 584m customers as of December 2010, an 11.8% lift annually, and attracted 53% of all new users signed up in the country last year.

In data terms, its mobile web traffic rose from 48.6bn megabytes in 2009 to 103.1bn megabytes across 2010, covering both cellphones and dongles.

Inhabitants of digital "hotspots", typically able to leverage faster networks and possessing more advanced gadgets, logged a six-fold surge in usage time.

China Mobile's 3G audience now exceeds 20m people, and to stimulate such demand it is seeking to create services suitable for different price points, time zones and regions.

Last May, the company officially launched a mobile "wallet" allowing shoppers to complete transactions and make payments through their handsets, attracting 2.3m users, and 1,500 vendors, thus far.

During the same month, it rolled out an e-reading offering, securing 9.6m customers buying titles from a rapidly-expanding catalogue, currently reaching 150,000 publications.

Over 8.5m individuals also streamed video on a wireless device in 2010, choosing between 900,000 pieces of content made available by a variety of sources.

Another pastime growing in popularity is watching the stations the company runs on the China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting platform.

In all, CMMB's subscriber base, empowered to access seven channels hosting a broad range of material, stands at 1.1m viewers.

Elsewhere, 2.8m consumers have paid for music services, and 4.6m regularly utilise digital gaming features.

Approximately 35m people downloaded a combined 110m apps in 2010, attained through the Mobile Market operated by China Mobile.

At present, this hub boasts 50,000 applications - measured against roughly 65,000 for Apple's iPad alone - although 1.1m registered developers are working on augmenting the existing selection.

China Mobile is also allied with 52 handset manufacturers, yielding a portfolio spanning 173 models overall.

"Increasing mobile penetration in China will further intensify competition in the telecommunications industry," Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile's chairman, said in a statement.

"At the same time, China is speeding up its transition to an economic development model that is more focused on technology and innovation."

"The telecommunications industry's traditional eco-system is facing new challenges."

In demonstration of this, China Mobile's voice revenues climbed 4.1% in 2010, to 333.8bn yuan ($50.8bn; €36.4bn; £31.6bn), while "value-added" returns grew 15.2%, hitting 151bn yuan.

This included a leap from 20.4bn yuan to 30.5bn yuan year on year generated by mobile internet data transfer.

China Unicom, which is the exclusive reseller of Apple's iPhone, has 14.1m customers using 3G services, out of a total of 311m.

These figures stood at 12.3m and 90.5m for China Telecom, the sector's third leading player.

Looking forward, China Mobile is testing a 4G network, in an effort to gain an advantage over its major rivals, and boost mobile web use.

"We have commenced large-scale tests in Beijing and six other cities, and we seek to start commercial trials of the 4G network by the end of this year," said Wang.

As previously reported, China Mobile has expressed optimism about the possibilities of forming a partnership with Apple to sell the iPhone.

Data sourced from China Mobile; additional content by Warc staff