China recorded 973.7 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2011, and is on track to surpass the one billion connections milestone by early spring, according to a report by Wireless Intelligence.
Mobile subscriptions in China are growing at a rate of 16% each year. With a population of over 1.3 billion and mobile market penetration estimated at 72%, the report suggests that the industry still has major opportunities for further expansion. Compare this to the United States where mobile subscriptions currently exceed the population by about 16 million – many consumers have multiple devices capable of connecting to the internet.
3G data connections reached 200 million, or one-fifth of all connections in China, with 3G-capable devices accounting for 80% of all recent sales.
Currently only one of China’s mobile operators, China Unicom, is offering Apple iPhone products and has been doing so exclusively since 2009. Despite being limited to a single operator, China has already become Apple’s second-most important market outside of the United States, illustrating just how lucrative the mobile market has become there in recent years. In fact, the greater China region accounted for 12% of Apple’s full-year revenue for 2011.