China Mobile's two closest competitors in the mainland market are reluctant to invest and take part in the development of the homegrown fourth generation network on fears it may hurt market share.
But analysts warn that while slower buildup of 4G facilities could be positive in the short term for cash flow at China Telecom (0728) and China Unicom (0762), this may reduce their share of the national mobile data service sector.
China Mobile is the biggest spender in the development of the 4G, or TD -LTE, service. Of the 190 billion yuan (HK$239.3 billion) in capital expenditure for this year, 41.7 billion yuan have been allocated to building the 4G network.
Its two smaller rivals, however, have stayed passive. Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing insists that the more internationally accepted FDD-LTE technology will be used to provide 4G service.
That is because it will need a modest 10 billion yuan annually for the next few years to upgrade the existing network.
China Telecom could even rent China Mobile's system rather than develop its own, chairman Wang Xiaochu said.
With a large bandwidth reserved for the TD technology, at least one carrier other than China Mobile is expected to receive the license this year.
After shouldering most of the burden for the 3G network, China Mobile is hoping for more support on 4G. But CLSA said Unicom is worried about 4G market share lagging the giant operator.