Chinese operator China Unicom revealed its 5G user numbers for the first time since the telco launched the technology in October 2019, closing 2020 with 70.8 million package subscribers.
In its earnings statement, China Unicom noted that 5G customers accounted for 23.2% of its total customer base.
China Unicom also announced plans to boost its 5G capex in 2021 by 3% to CNY35 billion ($5.4 billion), working with network partner China Telecom to add 320,000 base stations to take their combined total to 700,000 sites by the end of the year.
The operator noted that the “co-build and co-share” initiative with China Telecom resulted in a cumulative saving of network investment of over CNY76 billion for both parties. It also significantly reduced network operating costs and shortened the network deployment cycle, the operator said.
“In the first half of 2020, the Company maintained focused deployment while closely collaborating with China Telecom to advance “co-build co-share” of 5G network. It successfully doubled the 5G network deployment pace and capability, achieving 5G network scale, coverage, and quality as comparable with the leading operator,” China Unicom Chairman and CEO Wang Xiaochu said.
“In the first half of the year, China Unicom and China Telecom together added approximately 150,000 5G base stations,” Wang Xiachu added. “Currently, the company deployed a total of approximately 210,000 5G base stations in service, of which China Unicom built more than 100,000 base stations, providing contiguous coverage in more than 50 major cities. It successfully upgraded 4G base stations to 5G base stations at 2.1GHz frequency band by software in certain provinces.”
The executive also highlighted that China Unicom has expanded the “co-build co-share” with China Telecom to the 4G segment.
The operator reported a net profit of CNY12.5 billion in 2020, up 10.3% year-on-year and operating revenue of CNY303.8 billion, climbing 4.6%
Mobile service revenue was flat at CNY156.7 billion, with ARPU rising 4.1% to CNY42.10.
China Mobile, the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, recently reported an addition of 3.97 million 5G subscribers in January. The operator said it ended the first month of 2021 with a total of 168.97 million 5G subscribers, compared to 6.7 million 5G customers in January 2020.
China Telecom added 10.67 million 5G subscribers in January to take its total 5G subscribers base to 97.17 million.
In June 2019, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) officially issued licenses for the launch of commercial 5G networks in the country. Those 5G permits were granted to China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and state-owned broadcaster China Broadcasting Network.
Large cities including the capital, Beijing, and Shenzhen already have full 5G coverage and 5G deployments are also accelerating in Shanghai.