China Telecoms Industry Report – 2023-2028


This report provides analyses of revenue and market forecasts as well as statistics of the China telecoms industry including market sizing, 5-year forecasts, market insights, key telecom trends, 5G, digital infrastructure and also features the following:

  • Overall Telecommunications Market by Major Operators
  • Telco Operators Profile, Revenue and EBITDA Mix
  • Mobile Subscribers & Revenue Market Overview and Forecasts
  • Spectrum Holdings
  • IoT Market Overview
  • Broadband Subscribers & Revenue Market Overview and Forecasts
  • Digital Infrastructure (Fibre, Telecom Towers, Data Centres, Submarine Cables)
  • Telecom Tower Market Analysis and Forecast
  • Thematics / Opportunities relating to 5G, M&A and e-Commerce
  • Telco M&A Transaction Database

About this report:
3rd Edition
Pages: 77
Author: Landry Fevre
Publication Date: November 2022
License: Single User PDF



  • Benefit from the latest market opportunities
  • Understand the threats to your operations and investments and protect your company against future risks
  • Gain insights on emerging trends supporting, enhancing or disrupting your activities in the market
  • Get a full view of the competitive landscape to assess your market position.
  • Forecasts as a key input for successful budgeting and strategic business planning in the telecoms market
  • Target business opportunities and risks in the telecoms sector through our reviews of latest industry trends, regulatory changes and major deals, projects and investments
  • Assess the activities, strategy and market position of your competitors, partners and clients via our Operators Profiles

The China Telecommunications Industry Report, 2023-2028 includes a comprehensive review of the Chinese market dynamics, market sizing, market forecasts, analysis, insights and key trends.


China Telecoms Industry Report at a Glance

Globally, the telecommunications sector is proving to be a core and essential infrastructure service to national economies, with data infrastructure becoming critical in a connected world and will likely increasingly attract a new class of investors such as large infrastructure funds. Idem Est Research expects the Chinese telecommunications industry to remain steady thanks to the defensiveness nature of the industry, amid the political uncertainties and an uncertain economic outlook due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing mobile phone penetration and high fixed broadband take-up among households will fuel future growth over the next five years.

According to our China Telecoms ReportIdem Est Research forecasts that mobile subscriptions and fixed broadband subscribers will continue to fuel the telecoms sector growth in the 2023-28 period. More than 390m people became Internet users over the last in seven years and another 260m more Internet users are expected to come online over the next six years by 2028.

Following the market expansion over the last 5 years, Idem Est Research forecasts sustained revenue growth to 2028, despite the declining population and the economic uncertainty.

The Chinese government is the largest shareholder in all three Telecommunications Service providers (TSPs), swaying a large influence on strategy, network investments and pricing to the operators and putting great emphasis on developing the country’s telecommunications infrastructure as it is so tightly related to developing the national economy and strengthening national unification.

The strategic and economic competition between the US and China is at the centre of advanced technology competition and the future of global data and communications. Gaining strategic and economic power is depending heavily on having technological ascendancy, as one of the most salient feature of China’s vision of its China Dream and “the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Idem Est Research expects the mobile market to slow its growth as China Broadnet, the 4th mobile new entrant launched its 5G services putting pressure on mobile ARPU.

Capex Investments

The Capex from Chinese operators is cyclical with mobile rollout leading to investments in line with the operators’ top-line growth. Capex investments peaked between 2015 and 2016 while all three operators built their respective 4G mobile network and declined to a lower level in 2019 but will increase again from 2022 through to 2028, as mobile operators invest in 5G, bolster their 4G coverage and increase capacity to fulfil strong data demand. The Capex to GDP ratio spiked between 2015 and 2017 and its started to slide from 2017 onwards.

5G is the backbone of a wide range of technological advances including autonomous vehicles, smart cities and Internet of Things. To that effect, China is stepping up the long march to 5G with the government directing its 3 operators to accelerate 5G network constructions with over 2.1 million 5G base stations installed by the end of 2022.

Operator Profiles

The Chinese three-player mobile market is a remarkably stable market with three established state-owned mobile and fixed operators competing under the direction of the Central Government providing directions for network speed upgrades, mobile data tariffs reduction and future investments policy on 5G and FTTH.

Most operators lost revenue and EBITDA share to China Mobile over the last six years and China Telecom started to recover in 2019, improving its EBITDA. China Unicom lost both revenue and EBITDA share while cost reduction measures started to flow in 2019 with improving EBITDA and cash flow.

Mobile Subscribers and Revenue

Average annual mobile revenue growth was lower (1.3%) than mobile service subscriptions growth (3.6%) during the period 2015-2021, highlighting the structural challenges faced by mobile operators. Declining voice & SMS revenue only partially offset by wireless data monetisation is putting pressure on ARPU, compounded by a reduction of dual-SIM cards feature, driving the lower growth in mobile subscriptions.

Population growth is a major growth driver for mobile operators, a slowdown in mobile subscriptions growth which will put long term pressure, dialling up competition for the three mobile operators fighting for fewer new customers.

According to our benchmark study of mobile data pricing, China had among the biggest cost reduction per GB over the last 4 years, while India has the lowest rate in the world with just a few cents per GB and Singapore remains expensive.

Idem Est Research estimates that China could finish 2022 with about 555 million 5G network subscribers and that this number could rise to as many over 1.5 billion by 2028 (making up about 40% of 5G subscribers worldwide).

Broadband Subscribers – FTTH Push to Gigabit Speeds

The fixed broadband market is experiencing strong growth mostly driven by China Mobile’s push into the market over the last six years to become the market leader. Fixed broadband subscriptions are very affordable in China generating lower ARPU than than a mobile subscription, a market singularity as in most markets, fixed broadband services are usually at least twice the price of mobile services.

Fixed broadband penetration is forecasted to grow modestly as China’s investments on full-fibre networks are now reaching maturity with affordable packages and increased broadband household penetration growing towards saturation.

Meanwhile fixed broadband customers opted to upgrade their connections with over 94% of subscribers opting for FTTH subscriptions with speeds over 100Mbps.

ThematicsTelecoms Infrastructure / 5G / M&A / Infrastructure

Infrastructure funds, pension funds and government funds are assigning high valuation multiples to telecommunications infrastructure assets such as mobile towers, data centres, submarine cable and fibre infrastructure.

Investment funds are assigning high valuation multiples to telecommunications infrastructure assets such as mobile towers, data centres, submarine cable and fibre infrastructure. This report outlines some real market examples of how investors view and value these investments with real industry examples and EV/EBITDA comparatives and benchmarks.

Our China Telecoms Report transactions database analysis highlights the dearth of inbound (domestic) transactions in the Chinese telecommunications services market, with the largest transaction being the telecommunications operators shifting assets to an infrastructure entity, China Tower Co. However, in the short to medium term, the telco sector is unlikely to experience corporate activity with the government controlling the sector and with telecommunications remaining a strategic sector with a low level of debts. Most transactions are expected in the data centre, IoT and cloud computing sector with many private sector operators and large technology companies such as Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba.

The arrival of 4G moved the Internet off our desktops into our palms and pockets, 5G could transform the network from something we carry around to something taking us around either virtually (augmented reality or virtual reality) or in reality (autonomous vehicles), the 5G outcome and benefits beyond fast connectivity remain largely unknown in terms of business models, investments required and timeline.

Beijing RLZY, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Tower, China Unicom, Dr Peng, Guodong, Miteno, Sino Netstone, Tietong, Zhejiang WanXing

China Telecoms Industry Report – Table of Contents

1       Key Statistics
1.1        China Population
1.2        China’s Economy
1.3        China’s GDP

2       Overall Telecommunications Market, 2015–2028
2.1        Market Overview
2.2        China’s Race to Lead in 5G and Beyond
2.3        Historical Telecommunications Market Revenue, 2015-2021
2.4        Overall Telecommunications Market Forecast, 2021-2028
2.5        Telecommunications Market Capital Expenditure, 2015-2028
2.5.1      Historical Telecommunications Capex Spend, 2015-2021
2.5.2      Capex to Revenue Benchmark
2.5.3      Capex to GDP Benchmark
2.5.4      Telecommunications Capex Spend Forecast, 2021-2028

3       Telecommunications Operators Profile
3.1        China Mobile Profile
3.1.1      China Mobile Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix
3.2        China Unicom Profile
3.2.1      China Unicom Revenue and EBITDA Mix
3.3        China telecom Profile
3.3.1      China Telecom Corporation Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix

4       Mobile Market
4.1        Mobile Subscribers Historical and Forecast, 2015-2028
4.1.1      Mobile Subscribers Historical, 2015-2022
4.1.2      Mobile Subscribers Market Share, 2015-2022
4.1.3      China Smartphone Share, 2022
4.1.4      China Mobile Subscribers Forecast, 2021-2028
4.1.5      China Mobile Subscribers by Generation (2G, 3G, 4G & 5G) Forecast, 2021-2028
4.2        Mobile Revenue Historical and Forecast, 2015-2028
4.2.1      Historical China Mobile Service Revenue, 2015-2021
4.2.2      Mobile Service Revenue Forecast, 2021–2028
4.2.3      Mobile Subscribers ARPU, 2015-2028
4.3        Spectrum Holdings
4.3.1      Spectrum Pricing and Regulation
4.3.2      5G Development and Launches
4.3.3      Mobile Frequencies Portfolios Analysis
4.3.1      Spectrum Depth Benchmark by Country
4.4        Mobile Download Data and Pricing Trends
4.5        Mobile Speed Tests
4.5.1      Ookla Mobile Speed Tests
4.6        Internet of Things (IoT)

5       Broadband Market
5.1        Fixed Broadband Subscribers Historical, 2015-2022
5.2        Fixed Broadband Subscribers Forecast, 2020-2027

6       Telecommunications Infrastructure Investments
6.1        Fixed Digital Infrastructure
6.1.1      Government Plans
6.1.2      Submarine Cables

7       China Telecom Towers Infrastructure Landscape
7.1        China Telecom Tower Market Analysis, 2021
7.1.1      China Telecom Tower Market Overview
7.1.2      China Telecom Towers Background
7.2        China Telecom Towers Market Competitive Landscape Comparison
7.3        China Telecom Tower & Rooftops Market Forecast
7.3.1      China Telecom Towers and Rooftops, Revenue, Penetration Forecast, 2020-2027
7.3.2      Regulatory Considerations
7.4        China Tower Co Profile
7.4.1      China Tower Co Revenue, EBITDA and Capex, 2015 – 2021
7.4.2      China Tower Key Performance Indicators
7.5        Guodong Profile
7.5.1      Guodong Towers Key Performance Indicators
7.6        Miteno Profile
7.6.1      Miteno Towers Key Performance Indicators
7.7        Sino Netstone Profile
7.7.1      Sino Netstone Towers Key Performance Indicators
7.8        Telco Infrastructure Comparative

8       Thematics / Opportunities
8.1        Consolidation Opportunities
8.2        Diversification Opportunities
8.2.1      e-Commerce
8.3        New Telecoms Operating Model
8.3.1      The Attraction of Infrastructure Multiples
8.4        5G Developments
8.4.1      5G Overview
8.4.2      5G – Relative Capex Investments and Frequency Range
8.4.3      5G OpenRAN
8.4.4      Beyond 5G and Towards 6G

9       Telco M&A Transaction Database

10     Methodology

11     Copyright Notice

China Telecoms Industry Report – List of Figures

Figure 1 – Telco sector revenue as % of GDP in China
Figure 2 –Revenue Profile Historical Mix (CNY bn), 2015 – 2022
Figure 3 – Telecommunications Market Revenue Pool, 2022
Figure 4 – Telecommunications Market EBITDA Pool, 2021
Figure 5 – Telecommunications Revenue & EBITDA Share Estimates, 2021
Figure 6 – Total Telecoms Market Revenue and Growth Rate (CNY bn), 2021-2028
Figure 7 – Capex to Revenue Benchmark, 2015-2021
Figure 8 – Capex to GDP Ratio Benchmark, 2015-2021Figure 9 – Telecommunications Capital Expenditure Spend, 2000-2028
Figure 10 – China Mobile Service Revenue Mix, 2015-2021
Figure 11 – China Mobile Historical Revenue Mix, 2015 – 2021 (CNY m)
Figure 12 – China Unicom Service Revenue Mix, 2015-2021
Figure 13 – China Unicom Historical Revenue Mix, 2015 – 2021 (CNY m)
Figure 14 – China Telecom Service Revenue Mix, 2015-2021
Figure 15 – China Telecom Historical Revenue Mix, 2015 – 2021 (CNY m)
Figure 16 – Mobile Subscribers Share Comparison, 2015-2022
Figure 17 – Mobile Subscriber Share Comparison, 2015-2022
Figure 18 – Mobile Net Adds (000’s) Comparison, 2015-2022
Figure 19 – Mobile Subscribers Forecast, 2015-2028
Figure 20 – China Mobile Subscribers by Generation (2G, 3G, 4G & 5G) Forecast, 2021-2028
Figure 21 – Mobile Service Revenue Forecast (CNY bn), 2015-2028
Figure 22 – Mobile Subscribers ARPU (CNY), 2015-2028
Figure 23 – Mobile Frequencies by Operators and by Band (MHz)
Figure 24 – Subscriptions per MHz of Spectrum, Emerging Asia-Pacific Countries, 2022
Figure 25 –Mobile Handsets Monthly Download Data, 2017-2021
Figure 26 – Data Pricing Trends in Asia-Pacific (US$ per GB per month), 2017-2021
Figure 27 – Spectrum available and IoT Landscape in China
Figure 28 – Broadband Subscribers Share Comparison, 2015-2022
Figure 29 – China Net-Adds (000’s) by Operators, 2015-2021
Figure 30 – Broadband Subscribers Forecast, 2015-2028
Figure 31 – China Telecom Towers Market Share, 2021
Figure 32 – China Telecom Towers & Rooftops Forecast, 2020-2027
Figure 33 – Telecoms Providers EV/EBITDA Ranges
Figure 34 – 5G Network Slices Structure
Figure 35 – Effect of Frequency on Range
Figure 36 – 5G Capacity and Coverage Layers
Figure 37 – Relative Capex Required for 5G Network Infrastructure Investment
Figure 38 – Telecom Infra Project – OpenRAN Vision

China Telecoms Industry Report – List of Tables

Table 1 – China – Key Statistics
Table 2 – Telecommunications Market Revenue by Operators, 2015-2022
Table 3 – Total Telecommunications Market Revenue, 2021-2028
Table 4 – Historical Telecommunications Capex Spend, 2015-2021
Table 5 – Total Telecommunications Capex Investments Forecast, 2021-2028
Table 6 – Historical China Mobile Revenue, EBITDA and Capex, 2015-2021
Table 7 – Historical China Unicom Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix, 2015-2021
Table 8 – Historical China Telecom Revenue, EBITDA and Capex Mix, 2015-2021
Table 9 – Historical Mobile Subscribers, 2014-2021
Table 10 – China Mobile Subscribers Forecast, 2021-2028
Table 11 – China Mobile Subscribers by Generation (2G, 3G, 4G & 5G) Forecast, 2021-2028
Table 12 – Historical Mobile Service Revenue, 2015-2021
Table 13 – Mobile Service Revenue Forecast, 2021-2028
Table 14 – Historical Mobile Market Blended Mobile ARPU, 2015-2021
Table 15 – Spectrum Holdings by Operators and by Bands (MHz)
Table 16 – Historical Broadband Subscribers, 2015-2022
Table 17 – Historical Broadband Monthly ARPU, 2015-2021
Table 18 – China Broadband Subscribers Forecast, 2021-2028
Table 19 – International Submarine Cable Systems with Landing Stations in China
Table 20 – China Telecom Towers Market Analysis, 2021
Table 21 – China Telecom Towers Indicative Tower Leasing Annual Fees
Table 22 – China Telecom Towers Market Competitive Landscape Comparison
Table 23 – China Telecom Towers, Revenue, Mobile Subscribers, Penetration & ARPU Forecast, 2020-2027
Table 24 – Historical China Tower Co Revenue, EBITDA & Capex, 2015-2021
Table 25 – China Tower Key Performance Indicators, 2021
Table 26 – Guodong Towers Key Performance Indicators, 2021
Table 27 – Miteno Towers Key Performance Indicators, 2021
Table 28 – Sino Netstone Towers Key Performance Indicators, 2021
Table 29 – China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom, China Tower and Guodong Infrastructure Landscape
Table 30 – Technology Specifications (ADSL, FTTN, Fibre, 4G/LTE, 4G/LTE-A and 5G)
Table 31 – Telco Transaction Database, 2009-2022

Other Idem Est Research Telecoms Country Reports

Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, JapanNew ZealandMalaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, TaiwanThailand, Vietnam,
Asia Pacific Telecom Towers

Telecoms Country Report




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