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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 09:03 GMT
China mobiles outstrip landlines
Woman using mobile phone
Wealthy coastal cities have high mobile ownership levels
China now has more mobile phones than it has landlines, new figures show.

According to the data from the Ministry of Information Industry, subscriber numbers were up by more than 30% in 2003 to 269 million.

Over the same period, the number of fixed-line phones rose to 263 million in a population of 1.3 billion people.

The rapid growth mirrors the mobile's explosive growth in Europe in the 1990s - although there landlines were already much more common.

Growth in China has slowed sharply from the 60% annual subscriber expansion seen in 2002, but analysts say the size of the urban market still offers room for solid growth in years to come.

Prices for both handsets and services offered by the two state companies controlling the market, China Mobile and China Unicom, have been falling steadily, as indigenous handset vendors challenge foreign giants such as Nokia and Motorola.

Movement

For China, the landline figures may be flattered by the existence of so-called "limited mobility" systems, which allow subscribers to use a cordless handset within a short distance of their homes.

Of the 23% growth in landlines in 2003, as many as half are thought to be using this service, sold by the state fixed-line duopoly of China Telecom and China Netcom.

Worldwide, the number of mobile users outstripped the number of fixed lines in 2002.

The shifting balance was largely driven by the popularity of mobiles in developing countries whose landline infrastructure has been held back, often by corrupt or inefficient monopolies.



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