In September 2006, the U.S. led China by 5.9 million broadband subscribers. By September 2007, the U.S. lead was cut to only 2.4 million (65.5 million to China’s 63.1 million). China is expected to pass the U.S. in 2008.

But despite China’s huge subscriber base, penetration remains comparatively low – by late 2007, less than 5 percent of the country’s population had broadband access.

Great Wall of ChinaDSL remains the dominant form of access. The low cost of DSL services is one of the primary growth drivers for broadband in China. Operators are upgrading their networks, using higher-speed technologies such as ADSL2+ and very-high-speed DSL (VDSL) to meet increasing bandwidth demands.

Still in a relatively early stage of development in China, the trend toward FTTx is being driven by the increasing requirements for bandwidth from new applications and services such as IPTV and HDTV. With the sheer size of its population, along with its vast high-density urban areas, the Chinese market offers enormous potential to those in the FTTx industry.

China has the largest cable TV network in the world, but cable modem technology is not popular. Cable ops have not been a competitive force for various reasons, including regulatory issues.

China’s cable market is structured at central and local levels. Each county has its own local cable operator, as does each city, which in turn forms part of a provincial system.

Up to 90 percent of the existing cable systems allow only one-way transmission, but a number of cable networks are upgrading to a hybrid/fiber coax (HFC) structure and converting to a two-way system. While the policy for cable ops providing Internet service remains a grey area, many ops are entering the space, raising the prospect of competition between cable ops and telcos.

The government is taking measures to end analog TV broadcasts by 2015 in the transition to digital broadcasting. A major concern is cost, but the largest obstacles are the high level of fragmentation and lack of interoperability among cable ops in each city.

China’s digital TV standard, GB20600 – co-developed by Legend Silicon – establishes standards for high-bandwidth video; but, unlike the U.S. standard, it also accommodates mobility.

China has the world’s largest mobile communications market. Mobile TV is expected to be a highly popular mobile service in China, with subscribers forecast to exceed 90 million by 2009, and potentially overtaking traditional TV shipments by 2012.

China broadband stats

• Population: 1.3 billion*
• 539.4 million mobile subs**
• 379 million households*
• 369 million fixed lines in service**
• 140 million cable TV subs**

• 23.7 million digital subs

• 65.6 million broadband subs**

• 51 million DSL subs
• 14.3 million cable modem subs


• Headquarters: Beijing
• Only domestic satellite provider for mainland China.
• JV of China Satellite Communications and Sino Satellite Communications – last year, the two companies combined their respective satellite resources.
• More than 15 million households in China are expected to adopt satellite TV services by 2010.

China Mobile

• Headquarters: Beijing
• World’s largest mobile operator in terms of subs.
• Provides mobile, Internet and VoIP services.
• 376.4 million subs***

China Netcom

• Headquarters: Beijing
• Second-largest fixed line operator
• Provides Internet, VoIP, Wi-Fi, and fixed and mobile telephony services.
• 110.1 million fixed line subs***
• 28.4 million Little Smart mobile subs**
• 20.5 million broadband subs***
• Selected as the exclusive fixed line telecom partner in China for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

China Telecom

• Headquarters: Beijing
• World’s largest wireline telecom and broadband services provider
• State-owned, incumbent telco and largest fixed line operator
• Provides Internet, VoIP, and fixed and mobile telephony services.
• 222 million fixed line subs**
• 62.7 million Little Smart mobile subs*
• 35 million broadband subs***

China Unicom

• Headquarters: Beijing
• Second-largest mobile operator
• Provides mobile, Internet and VoIP services.
• 163.9 million mobile subs***.

* As of July 2007 | ** As of November 2007 | *** As of January 2008 | Source: BuddeComm