China Telecom detailed plans to maintain an elevated 5G capex in 2021 to cover plans to almost double its number of base stations to 700,000 by the year-end and deploy the standalone (SA) variant.
The operator earmarked CNY39.7 billion ($6.1 billion) for 5G capex, broadly in line with the CNY39.2 billion in 2020 when it and network partner China Unicom deployed 300,000 sites and ended the year with a combined 380,000.
China Telecom expects its total capex for 2021 to increase 2.6 per cent to CNY84.8 billion.
In 2020, 5G users generated ARPU of CNY65.60 compared with CNY44.10 for its overall user base, which was down 3.7 per cent year-on-year.
Chairman and CEO Ke Ruiwen said the company accelerated its cloud network integration to support “the scale commercialisation of SA 5G and enhance the efficiency of service activation”.
Net profit inched up 1.6 per cent to CNY20.8 billion and operating revenue grew 4.5 per cent to CNY393.6 billion. Mobile service revenue increased 3.5 per cent to CNY182.7 billion.
The operator added an average of 6.83 million 5G package subscribers a month to end 2020 with 86.5 million. It launched 5G service in late October 2019 and closed that year with 4.6 million subscribers.
Total mobile subscribers rose 4.6 per cent to 351 million.
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