3G Market in China Is an Equitable MixWith more than 680 million subscribers, China Mobile is the largest wireless carrier in the world and has almost five times as many subscribers as China Telecom. But when it comes to 3G, the difference is not nearly as much. As of June 2012, China Mobile had around 67 million 3G subscribers, only about 30% ahead of the 51 million who subscribe to China Telecom's 3G network.
China Telecom announced this week that it added 2.8 million 3G subscribers in June, which is about a third of the overall 3G adds for the month, in China. Low 3G penetration of about 17% in China is giving smaller wireless carriers, such as China Telecom, ample opportunity to compete on an even ground with the otherwise dominant China Mobile.
China Telecom has also been helped by the fact that China Mobile currently runs its 3G network on a homegrown proprietary TD-SCDMA standard that is not compatible with many smartphones. That may soon end, however, as Qualcomm (QCOM) recently launched a wireless chipset (next generation MDM9615) that supports the standard, making it likely that many popular smartphones, including the iPhone, could soon be making their way to the world's largest carrier. Such a deal has, however, not been officially announced yet and China Telecom will be looking to make the most of its iPhone opportunity before that happens.