China Mobile first-quarter profit rises 3.5 percent

The carrier now has 667 million mobile users

China Mobile's first-quarter net profit rose 3.5 percent year on year, despite growing competition from rivals, the company reported Friday.

China Mobile made net profit reached 27.8 billion yuan (US$4.4 billion) for the first quarter, up from 26.9 billion yuan a year earlier.

Revenue reached 127.4 billion yuan, increasing by 7.8 percent from a year earlier.

China Mobile's customers at the end of the quarter numbered 667 million, adding an additional 17.6 million users over the three-month period. The carrier's 3G users, however, remain at less than 10 percent of total users, numbering 59.6 million users.

Despite China Mobile being the country's largest carrier by number of subscribers, the company has struggled to expand its smartphone offerings to keep up with the competition.

Rivals China Unicom and China Telecom both offer Apple's iPhone, along with many of the hottest smartphone devices on the market. China Mobile, however, has yet to strike a deal with Apple to design an iPhone that can work on the carrier's 3G TD-SCDMA network, a homegrown standard used only in China.

Attracting more users to China's 3G networks remains crucial to improving the carriers' revenues. For the past quarter, voice usage among users was down 1 percent from a year earlier. But wireless data traffic usage was up by 3 percent.

While China Mobile's profit rose, the 3.5 percent year-on-year growth is slower than 5.4 percent increase the company saw a year earlier.

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