Operators build brands and networks
With 750 million subscribers, China Mobile remained the world’s largest wireless provider and China’s most valuable brand. It still faced challenges. Although it invested in a 4G network to leapfrog the competition, it lagged behind China Unicom and China Telecom in 3G.
Meanwhile, all the telecom providers confronted competition from OTT (over-the-top) brands, such as WeChat, which provide free communication services over the Internet and avoid the overhead costs of developing and sustaining networks.
The telecom brands also sought to add content and avoid being viewed as interchangeable “pipes,” even as they benefited from the increased data—and associated revenue— flowing through the pipes. The telecom provider category increased 17 percent.