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Rush hour for China's cellular operators

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on February 20, 2007

By now just about everybody who cares knows that China is the world’s biggest cellular market. Every once and a while, it’s useful to step back and think about just how big China really is. And what better time than now, when the whole country is shut down for a week’s worth of Chinese New Year celebrations (and there’s very little news to blog about)? So, consider this number: 14 billion. According to the China Daily, that’s how many text messages China’s two cellular operators, China Mobile and China Unicom, are expecting to send over the long holiday. That’s also an 11% increase over last year, when Chinese sent 12.6 billion SMS. In 2005, Chinese sent 304.6 billion text messages, one third of all SMS worldwide.How much has China changed? Consider that in 2001 China’s operators only sent 18 billion SMS for the whole year. Now, with 460 million Chinese using cell phones, the two companies have to figure out how to handle close to that number in just one week.

This obviously puts a gigantic strain on the country’s telecom infrastructure. And it might give the Chinese an edge when their companies compete overseas. For instance, I’ve interviewed executives at Huawei Technologies, China’s top producer of routers and other telecom equipment and one of the biggest rivals that Cisco Systems faces worldwide, who have argued that Huawei’s ability to provide equipment that can handle the unprecedented strain of Chinese New Year SMS volume is a good indicator of how advanced the company has become. And it’s not getting any easier: By the end of the year, China’s Ministry of Information Industry expects the total cell phone population to increase 60 million to hit 520 million.

Reader Comments


February 20, 2007 5:51 PM

Bruce, would you please tell your Chinese friends, either from China or Taiwan, to do something about their "rampant" piracy problems? As you know, the Chinese have been "blatantly" ripping off every imagineable products known to humankind, including everything from songs to automobiles. For more information on "Chinese piracy" (and the scope of its impact on the global economy), check the following links out:


February 22, 2007 3:39 PM

To Mr. Begriffsklärung

May be China's piracy problem is as severe as you claim, but I protest here about your insulting to Taiwan. Unless your country is Germany (looks like from your name), no other country in Europe granted more patents from United States Patent Office more than Taiwan. This achievement by Taiwanese is a fact and deserve your apology.

September 11, 2007 8:07 PM

It is time the Americans and Europeans wake up.

The plain truth is that half of the world don't like them anymore because of their past and present political and economic activities all over the world.

In about 20 yrs, the Chinese and the Indians would dominate in everything.

And they are going to be welcomed in Africa, Arabic and South American countries because they have clean records: they never enslaved the Africans, like the English, Europeans and Americans did.

What I see is this: when the Chinese and Indians rise and take over the economic resources of Africa and South America, they would choke the Europeans and Americans and force their technological supremacy to ebb.

In the future, it is possible that Europeans and Americans would depend on Indian and Chinese aids in order to live.

Most would be forced to migrate to India and China to seek employment.

Already for now, China holds about $1.5 trillion American debt.

If they are to call it today, American banking system will collapse.

Americans don't even know they are now living on a borrowed time. And the clock is ticking fast.


September 27, 2007 2:17 PM

To Mr. Begriffsklärung

Teaching me fishing instead of giving me fish is best way to lift poverty and improve human kinds. As compassionated Germans, you should reveal all your tricks to developing countries. Unless Germans are uncampassionate, or wors.....?

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.

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