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Chinese carriers collectively claim to have cracked a billion 5G subs

5G was meant to top a billion subs globally this year – China may have done it single-handed

China's big three mobile carriers have posted customer data for September 2022 that reveals they collectively operate over a billion subscriptions to 5G services.

China Mobile revealed that as of September 30 it had 556,798,000 5G subs on the books – a jump of 28 million since August and an increase of 225 million over the last 12 months.

China Unicom reported it has 201 million 5G subs, with six million signing up in September alone. The carrier does not offer as much historical data as China Mobile but what it does disclose tells us that 5G subs have grown by over 35 million during 2022.

China Telecom posts granular data for each quarter, with its Q3 2022 data revealing 251 million 5G subs on the books and growth at about 20 million customers every 90 days.

The three carriers' total 5G sub numbers add up to … carry the two … 1,000,009 5G subs. That's almost 280 million more than they collectively reported in January 2022.

As technologies go mainstream, China nearly always ends up on top of the charts in terms of sheer numbers of users. In the case of 5G, China is also well on top in terms of adoption rates: around 70 percent of the nation's 1.4 billion people may now have a 5G device and subscription.

India, the world's second most populous nation, is in the first weeks of its 5G rollout.

China has made 5G a national priority as its government pushes to deliver digital government services (and constant surveillance), and encourages industry to connect to Internet of Things devices.

Speaking of which, the three carriers' data sheds some light on the extent to which China is hooking up to things: China Unicom counted 366 million connected things, and 2.785 million customers connected to private 5G networks.

Mobile carrier industry group The GSM Association in March 2022 opined global 5G connections would top a billion during 2022. China alone seems to have delivered on that prediction.

The carriers' data also suggests China has handily beaten a target of 560 million 5G users by the end of 2023 set by the nation's Ministry of IT in July 2021.

Whether all that 5G is making a difference is hard to assess. China's citizens could already mostly access fast internet – and plenty of them need it because rolling COVID-19 lockdowns mean they don't get out much anymore.

China did yesterday post GDP growth of 3.9 percent – about half a percent better than forecast and a nice improvement on previous quarters' very slow growth. No commentator The Register can find has declared that's in any way a 5G dividend, instead choosing to interpret the growth as driven by government stimulus. ®

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