The Chinese government has told China Mobile (CHL -0.4%), China Unicom (CHU +1.3%), and China Telecom (CHA -0.3%) to slash phone subsidies and advertising by a combined RMB40B ($6.4B) in 3 years, Bloomberg reports.
The government came to its decision after concluding carriers are spending too much to promote the iPhone (AAPL -1.8%) and other high-end hardware. While a large chunk of Chinese phone sales are unsubsidized, subsidies have been growing as carriers try to sign up higher-income subs to 3G/4G postpaid plans.
A possible motivation: Apple and Samsung control much of the high-end Chinese phone market, while local firms (both OEM and white-label) control much of the mid-range and low-end.
China Mobile, which began selling the iPhone in January, has forecast its subsidy spend will rise 29% in 2014 to RMB29B ($4.7B). China Telecom says it has already been "implementing stringent control on [its] selling expenses to ensure operating profitability.”
The Bloomberg report comes as Samsung says it expects to report soft Q2 smartphone/tablet sales. Among other things, the company blames tough low-end/mid-range phone competition, and weak tablet market demand caused by phablet cannibalization and low upgrade rates. CIRP has observed iPad upgrade cycles are notably longer than iPhone upgrade cycles.