According to ABI Research’s latest release of its “Mobile Subscriber Market Data” series of databases, the mobile industry concluded 2010 with 5.5 billion subscriptions. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for a whopping 53% (2.9 billion) of the total. One-third of this can be attributed to India’s huge 2G market; another one-third to China.
As of December 2010, China had 860 million subscribers, although 3G subscriptions accounted for fewer than 50 million, or roughly 5.5%.
“While there are wide differentials in disposable income, it is still surprising how slow China’s 3G rate of growth has been,” comments ABI Research practice director Neil Strother. “Literacy rates are high, familiarity with the Internet is also high through PC use in extended families as well as ubiquitous Internet cafes. And yet, 3G adoption has been muted.” At the end of 2010, China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA subscriber base stood at more than 20 million, China Unicom’s WCDMA had 14 million subscribers, while China Telecom had more than 12 million CDMA subscribers.
“3G is generally still viewed as a luxury service in China,” notes research associate Fei Feng Seet. “China Unicom reported its 2010 ARPU for WCDMA subscription at US$18.75 per month, which is three times the US$6 monthly ARPU for GSM.” Despite the launch of 3G networks, mobile consumers have not jumped into upgrading their subscriptions immediately as rapidly as in other markets. In fact over the past year, 2G has gained about 80 million subscribers.
Demand for 3G data services should pick up in the next two years as prices drop and more consumers require mobile data. 3G is forecast to reach 36% of China’s subscribers by 2016. It is unclear whether all the operators will be issued TD-LTE 4G licenses or whether the FDD version of LTE will also be an option in 2014.
ABI Research’s “Global Mobile Subscriber Database” (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/1005359) tracks key worldwide subscription trends by quarter and by operator for over 120 markets. The research is also presented by region: North and Latin America Mobile Subscriber Market Data (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/1005363); Asia-Pacific Mobile Subscriber Market Data (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/1005366); European Mobile Subscriber Market Data (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/1005324); and Middle Eastern and African Mobile Subscriber Market Data (http://www.abiresearch.com/research/1005361).