China approaches 900 million mobile phone users

But India is catching up and has 791 million mobile phone users

China is on the verge of becoming the first country in the world to have more than 900 million cell phone users, according to government statistics.

The number of mobile phone users in the country reached 889 million at the end of March, an addition of 30 million in the quarter. Based on that and recent growth rates, the total number of users is likely to surpass 900 million sometime during May.

The figures underscore the soaring rate of mobile phone adoption in the country. In March 2009, the country had 670 million mobile phone users. During the same period in 2010, that number reached 776 million.

The figures were contained in a report released by the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last week.

But while China maintains itself as the country with the most mobile phone users, India is catching up, with the rate of mobile phone adoption even faster. The country had 791 million mobile phone users at the end of February, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. This was a major increase from last September, when India had 687 million mobile phone users.

The U.S. has 303 million mobile phone users, according to the CTIA, an industry organization that represents mobile operators.

China's 3G networks, which launched in 2009, added 13.5 million new subscribers over the first three months of 2011. This puts China on track to surpass it's 2010 3G network growth rate, which added 34.7 million users over the course of that year.

Analysts have said China's smartphone sales have helped fuel the increase in 3G subscribers in the country. While only 21 million smartphones were sold in 2009, that number almost tripled to 62 million in 2010, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. Smartphone sales in China are expected to reach 95 million for this year.

At the end of 2010, China had 303 million users who used mobile handsets to go online, an increase from 230 million the year before, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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