Mobile phone industry in China

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3G TD-SCDMA mobile phones on display at a China Mobile's branch (Photo taken in February, 2010, in Dalian, China
Foreign companies' cell phones, such as Motorola RAZR and its various models (GSM), are popular in China.
Nokia's mobile phones, such as Nokia E71(GSM & W-CDMA), are popular among the business users.

China's mobile phone industry of cell phone industry has high growth rate, raising its share on the global mobile phone market. During 2007, 600 million mobile phones were made in China which accounted for over 50% of the global production.[citation needed]


  • In 1987, wireless telephone communication in the modern sense started by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of China, using GSM technology. A nationwide network was completed in the following year.[1]
  • In 2000, the fixed telephone company (China Telecom) and two cell phone telephone companies (China Mobile and China Unicom) were spun off from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
  • In 2002, the fixed telephone company was split into two: China Netcom for North China and China Telecom for South China
  • Until 2008, China's cell phone service was provided by the three companies:
  • In 2008, another reorganization of the telecommunications industry was made a year before the 3G service was granted.

Mobile phone service providers[edit]

After the 2008 reorganization of China's telecommunication industry, there are now three cell phone service providers.

China Mobile[edit]

China Mobile (Chinese: 中国移动) continues the old China Mobile's service, absorbed China Railway Communications, and began 3G service using TD-SCDMA, China's disputed own technology.

China Unicom[edit]

China Unicom (Chinese: 中国联通) continues the old China Unicom's GSM service, absorbed the old China Netcom's network of fixed telephones in the north of the Yangtze River in China, and started 3G service using W-CDMA technology.

China Telecom[edit]

China Telecom (Chinese: 中国电信) continues PHS service of the old China Netcom and China Telecom, continues the old China Telecom's network of fixed telephones in the south of the Yangtze River, and began 3G service using CDMA2000 technology.

Mobile phone industry[edit]

Wireless communication is regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The mobile phone industry in China has grown to become a large industry, including research of new technology, manufacturing of cell phones and building of telephone networks, participated by not only the domestic companies but also the foreign companies, such as:

Huawei Technologies is expected to surpass Nokia-Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent to become the second largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, after Ericsson, in 2009.

ZTE and China Mobile have done turnkey mobile phone network projects in Pakistan, Ethiopia, etc.

Mobile phones[edit]

Mobile phone manufacturers[edit]

Domestics sales[edit]

The domestic sales of cell phone made a breakthrough of 100 million in China in 2006.

In 2007, the domestic sales of cell phone in china were 190 million, increased by 74% as compared with 2007. The impetus mainly came from the rapid growth of new mobile phone users and old customers' upgrading demands. Of 190 million cell phones, 140 million were made through formal channels, while the rest were made through informal channels such as smuggling, counterfeiting and renovating.

Sales volume[edit]

For year of 2007, sales volume had reached about 23 billion USD, increased by 16% as compared with 2006. The drop of cell phones' average price made the increment of sales volume lower than the increment of sales because mobile communication company vigorously promoted the sales of cell phones binding to their service which have lower price.

Export volume[edit]

The export volume of China's cell phones added up to a record high of 385 million in 2006, increased by 69.3% as compared with 2005. In 2007, this figure reached 483 million, increased by 125.45% as compared with 2006. As far as 2006, the export volume had reached 31.214 billion USD, increased by 52.47% as compared with 2005. The export volume of 2007 was 35.6 billion dollars, increased by 114.01% as compared with 2006.

Development trend[edit]

The latest 2–3 years' development trend (2005–2008) has showed that the mainland market is developing in two directions. One of which is extremely low price mobile phones in emerging rural markets, while the other is in multimedia mobile phones with diverse functions such as mobile television, MP3 and GPS.

From 2011 smartphones, especially running the open source Android operating system, have become increasingly popular in the Chinese mobile market. This is due to the Android system providing the possibility for factories to produce smartphones with increasing ease, which in turn has allowed prices to decrease even to below RMB 1,000 Yuan. These cheap smartphones are also exported to every corner of the world thanks to internet sellers such as, and[2]


China's cell phone market is dominated by products with price under 2000 RMB yuan (about 290 dollars). Products at this price have accounted for 60% of the whole cell phone market, competing with China's local brands, informal cell phones and international brands.

Features of China's mobile phones[edit]

  • Most cell phone services are prepaid. Pre-payment can be made by buying a card (50 or 100 yuan) and calling the cell phone company, or through commercial banks. When out of town, pre-payment is not easy, usually solved by calling a friend in your own town to add money.
  • There is a clear distinction of cell phone and cell phone service in China, unlike some countries such as Japan where the cell phone is sold by and locked to the cell phone service companies. This tradition was broken by the 2009 introduction of Apple Inc.'s iPhone.
  • Stealing of cell phones and therefore SIM cards is quite common. When a cell phone is stolen, the owner must visit the cell phone service company to cancel the previous card, in order to retain the previous phone number and pre-payment.
  • A short message (SMS) or duanxin (Chinese: 短信), usually 0.10 yuan per message (up to 160 alphabetic or 70 Chinese characters), can be sent to any other cell phones across different cell phone service companies, GSM, CDMA or PHS.
  • Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) or caixin (Chinese: 彩信) is also available, usually 0.3 yuan per message (up to 50 kilobytes).
  • A custom ringback tone ("calling", Chinese: 彩铃), usually 5 yuan per month, is an additional service. It is when the called party can send a ringback tone to the calling party music (or any kind of sound) that the called party likes. Usually detested by foreigners, but loved by the Chinese young.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]