Apple’s iPhone Fuels China Mobile’s 4G Subscriber Growth


New mobile subscriber data recently revealed by China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) showed that the carrier is continuing to reap the benefits of its partnership with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). According to China Mobile chief executive Li Yue, the carrier’s 4G network user base reached 2.8 million subscribers in the March quarter, reports Radio Television Hong Kong via Apple Insider. As noted by Li Yue, the increase in 4G usage was due in large part to the iPhone, with nearly half of the carrier’s 4G network subscriptions coming from iPhone users.

The latest data follows similar news revealed by China Mobile earlier this year. “We added 1.34 million new 4G users in February and most of them are iPhone users,” China Mobile chair Xi Gouhua told The Wall Street Journal in March. “We are happy with the progress as we are still building our 4G network and the coverage is only available in some major cities.”

According to China Mobile’s website, the world’s largest carrier has over 780 million total subscribers on its network. However, the vast majority of these subscribers are on the carrier’s 2G, 2.5G, and 3G networks. China Mobile is currently in the process of rolling out the world’s largest 4G network in order to stay competitive against smaller rival carriers such as China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA). Apple officially launched its iPhone on China Mobile’s network in January of this year and the Cupertino-based company’s latest iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C models feature the homegrown TD-LTE 4G standard and TD-SCDMA 3G standard used by China Mobile.

Apple’s growth in China is expected to gain momentum as China Mobile continues to expand its nascent 4G network. As noted by Apple Insider, some analysts have predicted that the carrier could add as much as 5 percent to the iPhone maker’s total revenue in 2014. Apple will likely see even more growth in China when it launches its next-generation iPhone models later this year. According to a recent research note from Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty that was obtained by Apple Insider, Asian suppliers are expecting sales of the so-called iPhone 6 to be 20 percent higher than last year’s iPhone 5S launch.

Much of the excitement around the upcoming iPhone models appears to be related to the rumored increase in screen size. Although Apple has yet to confirm an increase in the iPhone’s screen size, multiple media outlets have reported rumors that the iPhone 6 will be available in two larger screen sizes. Most sources peg the screen size of the smaller model at around 4.7 inches, while the larger screen model is believed to feature a phablet-sized screen of around 5.5 or 5.6 inches. The screen size increase could be especially important for Apple in Asian markets, where phablets are known to be particularly popular. According to data from market research firm Canalys, smartphones with screens that are five inches or larger accounted for 43 percent of total smartphone shipments in the Asia Pacific region last quarter and 39 percent of shipments in Greater China. Apple is widely expected to launch its new iPhone models in September of this year.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: