After more than a year of sluggish promotion for its 3G network, China Mobile (NYSE: CHT; HKEx: 941) may finally be getting serious about selling its 3G service, after realizing its hoped-for leap to 4G won’t be coming for at least the next 2-3 years. Chinese media are reporting that China Mobile is getting ready to put out major orders in June for mid-range smartphones costing around 1,000 yuan, or $150, each for its TD-SCDMA 3G network. (Chinese article) The move comes as China Mobile, which controls around 70 percent of China’s mobile market, has lost steady share in the critical 3G space to rivals China Unicom (NYSE: CHU; HKEx: 762) and China Telecom (NYSE: CHA; HKEx: 728), which have aggressively promoted their systems using superior technology. China Mobile, which controls just 45 percent of the 3G market (previous post), was hoping to bypass 3G altogether by trialing and then rolling out a 4G network using better technology. But the telecoms regulator appears to be in no hurry to facilitate such a move, and has said several times recently that 4G licenses won’t be coming until 2013 at earliest, no doubt in part to give Unicom and China Telecom time to gain share to create a more balanced market. China Mobile seems to finally have accepted this reality with its upcoming aggressive 3G promotion, which could finally help it regain some of the momentum it’s lost to rivals over the last two years. If that happens, look for some aggressive moves in the months ahead and a potentially bloody price war that will help low-cost handset makers like ZTE (HKEx: 763; Shenzhen: 000063), but could hit the bottom lines of all three carriers.
Bottom line: China Mobile’s decision to more aggressively promote its 3G network will help it regain some momentum lost to rivals, but could also start a bloody price war.
一年多来，中国移动<0941.HK> <CHL.N>在推广3G网络方面并不太积极，如今这家公司认识到还要等至少2-3年才能迎来4G时代，所以终於要认真对待3G业务了。据中国媒体报导，中移动准备6月启动TD-SCDMA 3G智能手机集中采购招标，推出价格在1000元左右的3G手机。目前中移动占据着中国整体手机市场70%的份额，但在关键的3G领域，其市场份额已逐渐被竞争对手中国联通<0762.HK> <CHU.N>和中国电信<0728.HK> <CHA.N>所侵蚀，後两者通过更加先进的技术积极推广自己的系统。中移动目前仅控制着3G市场45%的份额，它曾希望跳过3G，直接进军技术更先进的4G网络。但监管部门看似并不急於配合，近期还多次表示，4G运营牌照最早要到2013年才会放行，其中部分原因无疑是为了让中国联通和中国电信有更多时间迎头赶上，以创建一个更为平衡的4G市场。如今，中国移动似乎终於接受了这个现实，因它也开始大力推广3G了，这可能有助於让它夺回过去两年丢掉的部分市场份额。若果真如此，估计市场会在未来几个月出现更大动作，从而可能引发惨烈的价格战，让中兴通讯<000063.SZ> <0763.HK>等低成本手机制造商受益，同时让三大手机运营商的盈利状况均受打击。
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