China Unicom revealed 5G user numbers for the first time since launching the service in October 2019, closing 2020 with 70.8 million package subscribers, a penetration rate of 23.2 per cent of its total customer base.
The figures took China’s total 5G count to 322.3 million at end-2020: China Mobile closed the year with 165 million and China Telecom with 86.5 million.
In an earnings statement, China Unicom detailed plans increase 5G capex in 2021 by 3 per cent to CNY35 billion ($5.4 billion), working with network partner China Telecom to add 320,000 base stations to take their combined total 700,000 sites by year-end.
China Unicom estimated the operators saved a total of CNY76 billion in capex by jointly deploying and sharing the 5G network, with an arrangement for LTE delivering a reduction of CNY9 billion.
The operator’s total capex in 2020 increased nearly 20 per cent to CNY67.7 billion and it earmarked CNY70 billion for this year.
Chairman and CEO Wang Xiaochu said the operator turned “adversity into opportunities” in 2020, when it faced challenges “in the internal and external environment” alongside the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Net profit increased 10.3 per cent year-on-year to CNY12.5 billion and operating revenue grew 4.6 per cent to CNY303.8 billion.
Mobile service revenue was flat at CNY156.7 billion, with ARPU rising 4.1 per cent to CNY42.10.
Total subscribers fell by 12.7 million to 305.8 million. Average data usage increased 21 per cent to 9.7GB.