Chinese 3G subscriptions grew 88 percent between all three of China’s major carriers combined in 2012. China Telecom and China Unicom, the two iPhone carriers in the country, have both experienced major growth while China Mobile, the only non-iPhone carrying carrier, actually experienced a drop in 3G subscribers. Last year, China Mobile had roughly 41 percent of its subscribers on a mobile web plan, compared to only 37 percent this year. As of now, China Unicom and China Telecom have 139.2 million 3G subscribers combined.
The reason for China Mobile’s 3G subscriber decline was almost definitely due to the iPhone 5 launch on China Telecom and China Unicom last month. Apple sold over 2 million iPhone 5 devices in China in the first three days it was available on the market. The iPhone 5 launched in China this month and went up for preorder in November.
Because of this decline, Apple and China Mobile will have a much easier time negotiating a deal to offer the iPhone 5. Analysts expect Apple and China Mobile to work out a deal sometime in the coming year. This deal could end up rebounding China Mobile’s 3G decline and Apple’s marketshare issue as China Mobile is the world’s largest cellular carrier.