Huge Mobile Subscribers Amount
According to the latest report from the Ministry of Information Industry on Dec 17, 2002, by the end of Nov 2002, the number of mobile subscribers has reached 200.3 million.
Mobile phone subscriber # 200.31 million
Fixed-line telephone subscriber # 212.68 million
Telephone total subscribers # 412.99 million
Internet users # 48.29 million
# of telephone subscribers by the end of Nov 2003, according to Ministry of Information Industry, China
From the begining of 2002, there are about 5 million new mobile subscribers. With this trend going on, the number of mobile subscribers will exceed the one of fixed-line telephone very soon. The number of 200 million subscribers means every 100 persons in China have 14.95 mobiles. This number in big cities like in Shanghai and Beijing is much higher.
My personal perspective
From my personal perspective, there is vivid persons and lives behind these abstract numbers. I bought my mobile five years ago when I was still a student. My girlfriend bought hers 6 years ago. I don't have any friend who don't have a mobile in Shanghail now - my estimation is, any well-educated young people in Shanghai have a mobile.
What surprises me a lot is, even the workers decarating my house have their mobiles - the painters, the decorators, the mason, the electricity, and the carpenter. They dressed poorly - they don't bath for weeks, but they have mobiles. It is amazing!
I do have one friend in Shanghai who only have a pager - a 70-year-old famous professor. Beside him, I don't know anyone without a mobile phone.
Mayor of WebmasterWorld described his vision for China when he was here in 70's.
Having spent some time in PRC in the late '70's, my vision of the Peoples Republic is still one where there is little electric power or communication infrastructure, except to a limited amount in major cities. It's still a vision of technology mired in the 1940's.
It is quite true that in late 70's, there is almost on communication infrustructure. But now, it has changed greatly.
Impression of my friends in US
Some friends of mine came to Shanghai from Seattle. They are talking about the mobile and communication infrustcture in China excitedly - "Can you imagine it? My mobile phone still gets signals in the mountains that are hours' car ride from Chengdu!" I happent o have the pictures of the mountains he described.
When I was travelling in Seattle, I found it insteresting that a lot of people don't have mobiles. People explained this to me: in the north Americian, the telephone infrusturct has been built very well and you can easily find a telephone anywhere. But in China, to find a telephone on the street is not as easy. So there is a huge demand to get a mobile.
Fee of China Mobile
Here is the fee of China Mobile Communication Corp. (a.k.a CMCC)
Monthly subscription fee: 50 RMB/month
Local call: 0.4 RMB/min
Long distance call: 0.4 RMB/min + 0.07 RMB/6 seconds = 1.1 RMB/min
Answer phone: 0.4 RMB/min
Good way to save money:
Dial 17951 + Long distance number: 0.7 RMB/min
(note: 1 USD = 8.3 RMB)
For me, I use my mobile frequently. For local calls and long distance calls. I get a bill of around 300 RMB every month.
Mobile phones in China is cheap. For some old-fasioned mobiles, it only costs about 300+ RMB (40 USD?) to get a mobile. It is different than in U.S. Mobile phone and the SIM card are sold seperately. You can buy any mobile you like and choose the NSP (network service provider). Any two can macth. There is a discount to buy a mobile with a SIM card though.
Big mobile phone companies are fighting for bigger market share aggressively. It is clear that Nokia is taking the leading position and Motorola follows. My new mobile is Alcatel OT715.
Network Service Providers
There are three large NSPs in China
China Mobile - the largest. I am using China Mobile.
China Unicom - this is the provider of my girl-friend's
Actually, I don't see much difference between the service they provide.
Besides the subscription fee based model, they also have other options, like Prepaid Card.
All the providers offer their pre-paid card. Users of these card don't have to pay for the monthly subscription fee, don't have to pay the bill. They just buy a card (with a SIM card and certain amount of fee). There is a mobile phone related to this SIM card. Insert the SIM card into any mobile and you gain instant access to the mobile network.
Before the prepaid amount of money is used out, you can buy "value card", which is about 50, 100, 200 RMB. Unveil the card number and password, call the provider's number, key in the card number and password, you gain additional communication time. It is easy. The charge of this card per minute is a little bit higher than the monthly subscription model.
I have a lot of phone calls so I choosed the subscription based. My girl friend don't use her mobile as frequently, so she bought the prepaid card.
Pre-paid card in action
Here is an example of the Shenzhouxing pre-paid card from China Mobile (CMCC).
(picture cut after pasting to forum)
Shenzhouxing card. You can see the SIM card on the left.
Local: 0.6 RMB/min
Domestic long distance: 0.6 RMB/min + 0.07 RMB/6sec
Answer call: 0.6 RMB/min
You can compare the rate with subscription-based rate listed before. Please note: both calling out and answering call are charged, at the same rate.
Here is the China Mobile Communication Corp. (CMCC) report on signal coverage from ChinaByte on March 10, 2003
In the 36 major cities, avg. coverage = 99.86%
Country-wide highway coverage = 96%
In big cities like Shanghai, the coverage is a big challenge. There are two many tall buildings that weakens the signal. Now, most places are covered, such as in metro tunnel, in most elevators.
SMS is hot; SMS is part of people's life in China
I couldn't image there is anything that affected people's life more than Internet two years ago. Now I realized SMS is competing with Internet to change people's life.
In China, there is only 48.29 million Internet users by end of Nov, 2002 (don't get me wrong, this number is huge already), but there are 200.3 million mobile users.
I have a friend who spend about 100 RMB every month for SMS. It is only 0.1 RMB per SMS, which means 1000 SMS every month. Young generation (16-20 years old) use SMS more frequently. As I described in this article, Mobiles in China - My Personal Perspective, some people just buy a mobile phone and a pre-paid card. They only use the SMS functions as a good way to save money. They don't use the mobile phone to call.
SMS + TV? SMS + Radio? SMS + newspaper? SMS + ....
SMS is no longer a method for peer-to-peer communication. Some TV programs uses SMS as a feedback channel from the audience. They will put a survey on TV and they can get instant feedbacks. For example, in some competitions, SMS sent by audience will be a factor to choose the final winner. It is the same for the combination of SMS + Radio or newspaper.
More and more companies in Shanghai are using SMS as the information platform. There is a company called Guangxi (or Relation in English). You can send a SMS message to their service number 885074 containing any place name, and they will return the result to you via SMS. It is very handy.
CMCC (China Mobile) allows you to send JFCX to 1861 to query your credit in CMCC. Even the government is using SMS as a quick way to validate the invoice. This way, people cannot make fake invoices.
SMS + Internet
The reason why SMS can generate revenue is, the provider can charge more than the standard 0.1 RMB/message. In [sms.sina.com.cn,...] for example, people can download rings, pictures. Sina.com will charge 1.0 RMB/message for most of the download. The fee will appear in the monthly bill of mobile fee of the users. Then communication companies like CMCC will share the revenue with Sina.
For companies like 5460.net, a classmate finder service, information is no longer free. If you want to find a long lost classmate, you can enter his/her name, and the site will list very limited information about the person you are looking for. If you want to get more like his email, mobilephone, ..., you need to enter your mobile phone number. The site will send it to you. The trick is, if the site display is on the web site, it is free. But if they send it to you, they can charge you 1 RMB. That is the different. Although it is very small amount of expense for you, the thousands of subscribers do add up to big money.
P.S. The content of this page is copied from my blog entry [home.wangjianshuo.com] and part of the format and picture were lost.