China Mobile Investing Billions in 4G Network

The world’s largest mobile carrier, which has twice as many subscribers as the entire population of the United States, will invest upwards of $4 billion this year to build its 4G network.

China Mobile is believed to be making the effort at least partially in response to the looming arrival of Apple’s iPhone on its sprawling network with more than 700 million subscribers.

Reuters confirmed on Thursday, however, that the carrier already has 10 million customers who own the iPhone despite the incompatibility of the smartphone with China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA 3G technology.

Industry experts expect Apple’s next iPhone will support China Mobile’s TD-LTE 4G technology, even though this will be less widely used than the FDD-LTE standard.

“Apple’s iPhones will be like a killer app for China Mobile once its gets its 4G up and running,” Huang Leping, an analyst at Nomura International, tells Reuters. “That will definitely boost user numbers, though it will weigh on the bottomline in the first year or so as China Mobile will most probably have to provide heavy handset subsidies for the iPhone.”