China approaches one billion mobile subscribers

Apple's iconic store in Shanghai
Apple's iconic store in Shanghai
Apple's iconic store in Shanghai
Apple's iconic store in Shanghai

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.

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Darren McCarra
Darren McCarra is co-editor of The Sociable. He has a keen interest in photography, all things mobile, and writing about technology and social media. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.