China Mobile Sees 3.7 Percent Profit Jump on Data Sales

China and Apple still in iPhone talks (photo: The Tenth Dragon)
Increased data usage — particularly music downloads — fueled a 3.7 percent jump in fourth-quarter net profit for China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier announced Wednesday. The news comes as Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly is ‘very interested’ in creating an iPhone that works on the nation’s home-grown 4G standard.
China Mobile earned 32.4 billion yuan during the quarter ended Dec. 31, higher than the 31.8 billion yuan analysts had expected. In the wake of the report, chairman Wang Jianzhou announced plans to increase handset subsidies by 15 percent in order to attract more data users. Data service revenue comprised 31 percent of the carrier’s operating revenue in 2010. Data “was an essential driver of total revenue growth,” Wang said.

Although China Unicom, which is the nation’s sole operator using the standard 3G technology, is Apple’s exclusive iPhone provider, the Cupertino, Calif. company has long viewed China Mobile — with 20.7 million high-speed subscribers — as an attractive target. Earlier this month, China Mobile’s Wang said Apple’s CEO is “very interested in developing an iPhone that will run on” China’s homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G technology.
Because China Unicom has a smaller number of subscribers — 311.3 million versus China Mobile’s 584 million — iPhone sales in the Asian country have reportedly been lower than desired, reports say. Additionally, because a China Mobile or China Telecom (the nation’s No. 3 carrier) subscriber cannot transfer a phone number to China Unicom, iPhone sales have also been reduced.