50,000 5G base stations built. 4.4 million to upgrade. 935 million customers to upsell

Welcome to the world of China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier

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China Mobile today published its 2019 annual report, revealing the extraordinary scale of the business and its ambition to do better beyond China’s borders and in the cloud.

The numbers first. The company has revealed it has:

  • 950 million mobile customers, although the influx of 25 million new customers was rather lower than 2018’s 38 million new subscribers;
  • 15.5 million 5G subscribers
  • 4.48 million mobile base stations, of which 3.09 million are 4G-enabled
  • 50,000 5G base stations operating in 50 cities
  • 6.7GB average monthly data consumption among mobile users (that’s 6.35 exabytes!)
  • 172 million home broadband customers, 122 million of whom have adopted the carrier’s “Mobaihe” set-top box
  • 884 million internet of things customers
  • 10.3 million corporate customers

We could go on, but you get the idea: China Mobile is beyond enormous. It’s US$111bn revenue and $18bn profit put it around number 55 among the world’s largest companies by revenue, just behind Microsoft.

The company is hungry for more. Business customers are China Mobile’s main current target and growth engine and the carrier has started to develop products that combine comms and cloud to serve different industries. It’s already developed 50 5G-centric services of this sort. Consumers also get new offerings such as the “MIGU” video platform – essentially a Netflix-like service – that shows China Mobile also matters to the rest of the world because it’s acquired 200+ hours of BBC content.

It’s also rebuilt its own back office. The report details recent efforts to build its own cloud, which comprises 220,000 devices and runs proprietary AI and big data systems used to optimise its business.

Not even coronavirus dampens the company’s enthusiasm, as the annual report suggests the move to working from home will spur demand for China Mobile’s many, many services.

And the company hopes to win outside China too. It’s spinning out subsidiaries to operate offshore where they’ll offer communications and other IT services and creating new services to bring to market. Chair Yang Jie ‘s letter to shareholders describes the aim of those efforts as “becoming a top-tier global telecommunications operator”.

China Mobile is also becoming an investor in FinTech and other technology companies, and has already reaped plenty of profits from its ventures.

And there’s plenty to do at home, too, with huge 5G rollouts planned among plenty of product launches planned. ®

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