China Mobile, the world's largest mobile carrier, said its customer base exceeded 600 million on Wednesday, as the company reported an increase in profits for the first quarter of 2011.
China Mobile added 16.8 million users in this year's first quarter, a slight increase from the 14.2 million customers the carrier picked up in the fourth quarter of 2010. The company has noted in the past that many of its new customers come from China's rural and migrant markets.
China Mobile remains far ahead in its customer base in comparison to its two other rivals in the country. China Telecom has 335.6 million customers, while China Unicom has 323 million.
In its first-quarter financial results, China Mobile reported profits of 28.8 billion yuan (US$4.4 billion), marking a 5.4 percent increase from the same period last year. Revenue for the carrier also rose 8.3 percent to 118.1 billion yuan ($18.1 billion).
China Mobile's 3G network, launched in 2009, now has 26.9 million users. This puts it ahead of the company's rivals, despite China Mobile's use of a 3G standard called TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous CDMA), a homegrown technology not used outside of the country. As a result, popular smartphones must be re-engineered to work on the carrier's 3G network.
China Unicom, which sells Apple's iPhone, currently has 18.5 million subscribers on its 3G network.
Due to the rising use of handsets in the country, China has more than 850 million mobile-phone users.