By Marcus Leach

The world's largest mobile phone operator, China Mobile, has passed the 600 million subscribers mark.

The company said it had added 16.8 million customers in the first three months of the year, having targeted rural areas of the country.

It hardly comes as a surprise then to hear that the company announced an increase in profits, up 5.4 per cent (£2.5 billion) in the first three months, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Telecom companies in China have increased their focus on selling more third-generation mobile services.

Despite a higher number of subscribers China Mobile has seen a decline in average revenue per customer, due largely to the fact rural customer spend less on their phone bills.

"We know 50% of the new mobile subscribers for China Mobile are from the rural areas, which is contributing less to the average revenue per user," said Victor Yip from UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong.

China Mobile has the largest number of 3G users compared with rivals China Telecom and China Unicom.