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China adds 63 million mobile users in 2003

China added about 63 mn new mobile users during 2003, taking the total to some 270 mn people.

business Updated: Jan 07, 2004 15:11 IST

China added about 63 million new mobile users during 2003, taking the total to some 270 million people, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

That figure translates into a monthly average of 5.25 million new users a month, slightly higher than analyst expectations, as cellphone subscriptions picked up in the latter half of the year.

Fixed-line subscribers grew by 49 million people last year, it quoted Wang Xudong, head of the country's telecoms regulator, as saying.

But the world's largest mobile market by users was expected to add just 52 million new users in 2004, it said citing Wang, reflecting a slow down in the market served by China Mobile and China Unicom.

Marvin Lo, a telecoms analyst for BNP Paribas Peregrine, said the figure was broadly consistent with his forecast of 53 million new users.

"You're already starting to see an urban penetration rate around 55 to 60 per cent, so the growth won't continue to be as high," he said.

A declining subscriber rate was one reason for Hong Kong-listed China Mobile and China Unicom to buy more provincial networks from their parent companies, Lo said, allowing the firms to pump up their user base for the next two years.

China Mobile said in December it had begun talks to acquire the final 10 provincial networks from its state-owned parent. Its rival China Unicom will buy nine networks based on the GSM standard from its mainland parent.

The fixed-line phone market, dominated by China Telecom and China Netcom, was also forecast to slow, growing by 40 million new users during 2004, Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

First Published: Jan 07, 2004 15:11 IST