China Mobile reported a 1.4% rise in net profit, to 93.3 billion yuan ($14.9 billion), for the first nine months of the year, with growing take-up of mobile data services spurring a 6.4% increase in revenues, to 408.6 billion yuan.
China’s biggest mobile-phone operator has been focusing on improvements to service quality as the market matures, economic growth slows and competition intensifies.
The company still claims the biggest share of China’s 3G market, with 75.6 million subscribers at the end of September. China Unicom (Beijing, China) had 66.9 million at the end of September, while third-placed China Telecom (Beijing, China) reported a figure of 56.4 million at the end of August.
Nevertheless, the TD-SCDMA 3G standard used by China Mobile (Beijing, China) is incompatible with many of the world’s most appealing handsets, having been developed inside China as a competitor to the more widely used UMTS and EV-DO technologies. China Mobile is the only one of the country’s big three operators, for example, that does not offer the iPhone to its customers.
TD-SCDMA was also plagued by technical glitches on its commercial launch, which convinced some consumers to look elsewhere for a smartphone service.
The operator hopes to address its shortcomings with the launch of TD-LTE, a ‘4G’ standard that features in the plans of operators in other parts of the world, including Japan’s Softbank (Tokyo, Japan) and US-based Clearwire (Bellevue, USA). China Mobile aims to begin providing commercial TD-LTE services in the second half of 2013.
In the meantime, it is trying to stem a decline in average revenue per user (ARPU) caused by the proliferation of SIM cards, as some users take up multiple subscriptions.
The operator is adapting tariffs in response, but it says the increase in mobile data traffic is helping to offset the decline. It reported ARPU of 67 yuan per month for the recent nine-month period.