China’s adoption of consumer technology has been nothing short of staggering. In a very short space of time, China has leapfrogged from being one of the least significant players on the global stage, to the leader.

This fact is highlighted by the recent statistics that reveal China has just passed the United States as the single biggest consumer of smartphones on the planet. While the US has only experienced five per cent growth of smartphone adoption in the past year, the Asia-Pacific region has grown by a phenomenal 81 per cent. The Chinese smartphone market is now three times larger than the United States and nine out of every ten handsets sold are smartphones.

It is this unparalleled growth in mobile technology that has seen China roll out one of the fastest and most comprehensive mobile data strategies on the planet. With in excess of 740 million subscribers, China Mobile has been forced to the forefront of data offloading technologies.

Although Wi-Fi access only accounts for a very small fraction of China Mobile’s revenue, it handles roughly two-thirds of all wireless data traffic. This impressive fact has been made possible by the operator’s commitment to a Wi-Fi offload strategy. China Mobile has in excess of 3.83 million access points in place and is aiming to increase this to six million by 2015. In addition to this, the operator plans to increase its number of hotspots to one million.

China is still considered a developing market, despite showing all the signs of rapid maturity. Data offloading has long been the reserve of developed markets; however, China’s insatiable demand for wireless connectivity has seen the country become the global leader in offloading.

The state of 4G
Despite the rapid development of mobile data infrastructure, China has yet to roll out 4G services. This has caused a somewhat fractured market, as Apple’s latest smartphones are not compatible with China Mobile’s current network architecture. However, China Mobile has rapidly accelerated its plans to deploy 4G and expects the service to be live on December 18th 2013.

The move could well see an even further boost to the number of subscribers in China.

Next Generation Hotspot
China Mobile has been a key partner in the effort to bring Next Generation Hotspot to fruition. The technology, which will allow for seamless integration between cellular data networks and Wi-Fi access points, is the result of a partnership between the Wireless Broadband Alliance and over 100 partners.

China Mobile recently partnered with Cisco and 15 other operators to provide the first Next Generation Hotspot Experience. The event took place at the Wi-Fi Global Congress in Beijing in November and was a significant milestone in the journey towards an ecosystem in which cellular and Wi-Fi co-exist.

The demonstration included a fully deployed NGH network, compliments of Cisco; a range of Passpoint certified devices from different manufacturers and a fully seamless Wi-Fi roaming demonstration through China Mobile.

The event was the first live opportunity to experience a fully seamless and automatic network and set the scene for what is to follow.

As is always the case with new technologies, there are leaders and there are followers. Mobile network operators the world over are keen to see how NGH will integrate into existing infrastructure. China Mobile has chosen to be one of several operators at the vanguard of these next generation technologies and is investing significant resources into ensuring that it is able to meet the demands of its rapidly developing market.

As an early adopter of NGH, all eyes will be on China as it looks to homogenise public Wi-Fi and cellular data in the coming year.