China is lagging behind believe it or not despite the impressive growth. Last year the 3G subscriber base was only about 12%. By the end of 2013, it is projected that 3G subscriptions will grow by another 325-350 million users. China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier with over 700 million subscribers, has only a little over 80 million using its proprietary 3G network (TD-CDMA).
China Unicom and China Telecom, China’s number 2 and 3 carriers respectively, have grown near 100% since last year, and together have larger stake in the 3G market. Both carriers also offer Apple’s iPhone (China Telecom through its Beijing Telecom subsidiary), which distinguishes them from their larger rival and has also been cited as a major reason for their growth, both in customers and in overall 3G subscriber base.
iPhone 5 on December 14th on both carriers and in the first weekend, more than 2 million units sold. Analysts at Topeka Capital Markets believe that Apple will announce an agreement with China Mobile in 2013 to offer the iPhone to China’s largest subscriber base of more than one-half billion customers.