The number of mobile phone users in China nearly doubled last year to about 85 million, according to a report Monday on the Web site of the official People's Daily newspaper.
The world's most populous nation had 41 million new mobile-phone customers in 2000, the report said quoting figures from the Ministry of Information Industry. China is now the world's second-largest mobile-phone market in number of users, after the U.S.
Mobile data applications, including SMS (Short Messaging System) and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) were big draws for customers, the report said. SMS greetings were sent at more than 120 messages per second during the peak of this year's Spring Festival holiday, which began Jan. 24.
Because the Internet has been embraced by only a small portion of China's population so far and is growing at a rapid rate, some analysts believe mobile devices will become the major entry point to the Internet for Chinese users as soon as broadband services such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and 3G (third-generation) service become more widely available.
As in other developing markets, customers embraced prepaid service offerings, which helped China United Telecommunications Corp. (China Unicom) expand its market share to 22 percent from 15 percent the previous year. Prepaid services from incumbent China Mobile Communications Corp. made up 20 percent of the market as a whole, according to the report.
For the first time, mobile usage grew in 2000 at a faster rate than did the number of new fixed phone lines. China added 35 million fixed lines during the year. Mobile revenue, meanwhile, grew to 42 percent of total telecommunications revenue in the country.
The Ministry of Information Industry, in Beijing, can be contacted at http://www.mii.gov.cn/.