China Mobile, the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, added 17.62 million 5G subscribers in December, according to statistics published on the carrier’s website.
The operator said it ended 2020 with a total of 165 million 5G subscribers, compared to 6.7 million 5G customers in January.
China Mobile’s overall mobile subscriber base was reported as 941.9 million at the end of December, down compared to 943.7 million in November.
The carrier has already deployed over 385,000 5G base stations nationwide, according to recent press reports.
Yang Jie, chairman of China Mobile, reportedly said that the carrier finished its annual 5G network build-out target ahead of schedule and has built the world’s largest 5G SA network.
Meanwhile, rival operator China Telecom added 7 million subscribers in December to take its total 5G subscribers base to 86.50 million.
China Telecom’s overall mobile base amounted to 351 million subscribers at the end of December.
China Unicom ended December with 305.8 million mobile subscribers, down from 307.09 million the previous month. The company hasn’t revealed its 5G numbers.
China Unicom and China Telecom have jointly built and currently operate over 300,000 5G base stations across China.
In September 2019, China Telecom and China Unicom announced that they would jointly build a 5G network in certain parts of China and that they were working together to build 5G networks in 15 cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Nanjing.
According to estimates from Wu Hequan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the total number of 5G base stations in China could reach more than 1.7 million by the end of next year.
Wu said that despite the outbreak of COVID-19, Chinese operators have managed to deploy over 600,000 new 5G base stations this year, in addition to about 100,000 5G base stations built in 2019.
Local carriers already provide 5G coverage in all Chinese cities at prefecture level and above.
In June 2019, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) officially issued licenses for the launch of commercial 5G networks in the country. Those 5G permits were granted to China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom and state-owned broadcaster China Broadcasting Network.
Large cities including the capital, Beijing, and Shenzhen already have full 5G coverage and 5G deployments are also accelerating in Shanghai.