China is home to more than 1.1 billion 4G users, accounting for 74.6 % of mobile connections according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The MIIT also noted that mobile internet users—which include users of both 3G and 4G—reached 1.3 billion at the end of October.

In August, the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) found that the total number of Chinese internet users exceeded 800 million.

It is important to note that the MIIT numbers are not indicative of internet penetration. The large discrepancy between data published by the ministry and the CNNIC could indicate that the users to which the MIIT is referring are mobile subscriptions rather than individuals, which also includes mobile broadband and smartphone connections.

MIIT user data is usually higher than that of other bodies that measure internet usage in the country. In 2013, it claimed China had 800 million mobile internet users, whereas the CNNIC indicated that there were 772 million at the beginning of 2018. China’s internet penetration reached 57% in August this year.

Phone users are obviously opting to have voice conversations in messaging apps like WeChat. The total amount of time spent making phone calls decreased by 4.7% year-on-year. Even more drastic declines are seen when looking at fixed line telephone calls, which fell by 20% compared to the previous three quarters.

Despite the increased usage of data traffic, SMS service growth remains in the double-digits, reaching 10.6%, though mainly driven by enterprises. These messages included those for user logins and two-factor authentication. Revenue from the sector reached $31 billion, up 7.4% year-on-year.

There was no mention of the cost nor the speed of the internet connections. However, according to consulting agency We Are Social, the country’s internet speeds lag far behind its peers, coming in at 43rd in terms of mobile internet.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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