Gartner: Mobile phone use surges in Asia

Asia-Pacific mobile phone subscriptions grew 52 percent in 2000 to reach a total of 230 million, according to research figures released Monday by Gartner Group Inc. That growth represents an additional 79 million subscribers in the region during the year.

The largest market, and one of the fastest growing, is China. Mobile phone subscriptions there reached 85.3 million by the end of 2000, 97 percent higher than the 43.3 million subscribers at the end of 1999, Gartner said.

The main market drivers for China's mobile industry growth -- which will continue strongly -- were favorable government policies, increased competition, lower prices and a general increase in personal prosperity, according to Gartner. China's proposed entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) will help bring more networks and new companies into the market, further driving growth, Gartner said.

Japan, the second-largest mobile market in the region with 66.8 million subscribers at the end of March, is easily the leader when it comes to use of mobile Internet services, according to Gartner. Of the 34.4 million regular mobile Internet users in the region, 26.8 million [M], or 78 percent, were in Japan. Virtually all the rest were in South Korea, Gartner said.

Growth in subscriptions is considerably faster in countries with low mobile phone penetration. According to Gartner, mobile phone subscriptions in the Philippines rose 132 percent in 2000 to reach 6.3 million. In India, subscriptions rose 97 percent during 2000 to 3.1 million, a penetration rate of just 0.3 percent.

The potential of the Indian market may be realized soon, according to Gartner. As the market opens up, India could replicate the kind of growth pattern that China has enjoyed.

At the other end of the spectrum, the highly urbanized Hong Kong and Singapore markets have 74 percent subscriber penetration, according to Gartner, and growth has been slower. In Singapore, the opening up of the market to new entrant StarHub Pte. Ltd. kept growth at a reasonable level.

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