A Chinese mobile phone operator has reported that subscriber numbers have topped 300m for the first time.
China Mobile, the country’s largest wireless network operator, had 301.2m subscribers at the end of last year – more than the entire population of the US.
The figures highlight the soaring numbers of mobile users in China and the developing world. The combination of increasing wealth and falling handset costs is putting mobile phones in the hands of millions of new users each month in countries such as China and India.
A basic GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) handset with a monochrome screen and basic features costs about £12.50 to build today, while £20 worth of material can produce a GPRS (General Packet Radio
Service) handset, which includes functions such as basic internet browsing and sending photos to friends.
These ultra-low cost devices are sold to operators in emerging markets, which often give free handsets to users and make money on services.
At China Mobile, growth has accelerated since it hit 100m subscribers in July 2002. It took the company just a year and a half to add the next 100m users, reaching 201m at the end of November, 2004. To sustain its breakneck growth, the company began targeting advertising at users in China's vast interior last year.
India is the only country rivalling China in subscriber growth, with nearly 74m new wireless subscribers last year bringing the total to 149.5m, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.