According to a Research Note published by IHS Markit, in 2016, a network sharing deal between China Unicom and China Telecom drove LTE capex down 16 percent year-over-year. However, the combination of both companies’ addition of Frequency Division LTE (FD-LTE) eNodeBs and China Mobile’s moderate Time Division LTE (TD-LTE) rollouts led to a combined total of 1,020,000 eNodeBs deployed – the same number as in 2015.
China had a total of 1.3 billion subscribers in 2016, 64 percent of them on China Mobile’s GSM/TD-SCDMA/LTE network. Fifty-eight percent of China’s mobile subscribers are now on LTE, up from 32 percent in 2015.
The overall 2G/3G/LTE mobile infrastructure market came to $12 billion in 2016, falling 9 percent year-over-year at a time when China Unicom and China Telecom were building their nationwide FD-LTE rollout.
LTE revenue declined to about $10 billion (-4 percent year-over-year) in 2016, sustained by flat eNodeB rollouts, and leaving combined 2G and 3G revenue at less than $2 billion. The mobile infrastructure macro hardware market in China is expected to continue to go south, with a double-digit decline anticipated in 2017 due to the end of massive LTE rollouts. In the long run, it is forecast that the Chinese RAN and packet core infrastructure market will slow down further to $2 billion in 2021, a -34 percent 2016–2021 CAGR.