Chinese number-two operator China Unicom benefited from the growth of its 3G business and focus on low-cost smartphones during 2012 and the fourth quarter. In March last year the operator lost its advantage as the only carrier in the country to offer the iPhone with a service plan after China Telecom made subsidised iPhones available. China Unicom responded by offering low-cost devices priced at RMB1,000 to boost the “quality-to-price ratio and competitiveness of its terminal products” and attract new smartphone subscribers.
A rapid growth in the 3G business was attributed to handset sales, distribution channels, improved tariffs and promotion of integrated 2G and 3G products. The company added 36.44 million 3G subscribers during the year to reach a total of 76.46 million by year end. The company also focused on building out its 3G network, increasing the number of HSPA+ base stations from 92,000 to 331,000 during the year. Mobile data volume increased by 92 per cent compared with the previous year.