(By Balachander) China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) has jumped ahead of its two domestic rivals in deployment of the 4G technology with the operator projected to account for the majority of the country's subscribers through 2017, according to a new report.
Information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS) forecasts the number of China Mobile 4G subscribers to reach 228.8 million in 2017, representing 52 percent of China's 439.9 million total 4G users.
IHS said 4G users from China Unicom (NYSE: CHU) and China Telecom (NYSE: CHA) — the country's two other major telecom operators — will reach 114.4 million and 96.8 million, respectively.
"With its aggressive moves to establish 4G trials and deploy base stations, China Mobile has set the stage for dominance of the 4G market over the next four years," said Hailin Zhao, analyst for China research at IHS.
China's 4G technology is known as TD-LTE, or Time-Division Long Term Evolution.
China Mobile's early start on 4G ahead of its rivals may appear to be prescient, but the operator is actually making up for stumbles in its previous 3G rollout for smartphones, Zhao added.
Zhao said the 4G technology will make its first widespread deployment this year, with a total of 1.0 million subscribers — all claimed by China Mobile.
By 2015, IHS said China Mobile will have a "near insurmountable" lead with 55.1 million 4G subscribers — 34.2 million more than China Unicom, its closest competitor.
China Mobile has spent an estimated $1.5 billion to build its two trial networks and deploy all those base stations, IHS noted.