Report: China Internet Use Catching Up With US

China is now the nation with the second largest number of Internet users — with 20 million new users going online last year — and is coming close to the U.S. in terms of total broadband users too, according to a new research report.

The total number of Chinese Internet users reached almost 120 million last year, according to a report from the research and consulting firm eTForecasts, based in Arlington Heights, Ill., near Chicago.

The top Internet nation, measured by total number of users, remains the U.S., with 197.8 million, followed by China, Japan, India, Germany, the UK and South Korea, the study said.

Millions of Chinese

Increasing Internet adoption in Asia’s highly populous developing nations — primarily China, India and Indonesia — has helped push the world’s online population over one billion for the first time ever.

“Much of future Internet user growth is coming from populous countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia,” said Dr. Egil Juliussen, author of the new report. “These countries will also see strong growth of wireless Web usage, and for many new Internet users the cell phone will be their only Internet access device. “

China is coming close to the U.S. in terms of total broadband users too, with Chinese Internet users more likely to be on broadband connections than their American counterparts, the study said. “Reflecting the relatively recent introduction of the Internet to China, shared broadband access is relatively more common than in the U.S.,” said the report.

Other researchers show similar trends. A report from the UK-based research consultancy, Point Topic, places the number of Chinese broadband lines at 35 million, contrasted to just 41 million in the U.S.

Developed, Developing Nations Differ

While the number of people online is increasing in all countries, the larger developing nations are seeing their percentage share of the Internet audience grow rapidly while the proportion of users in developed nations, like the U.S., declines.

According to eTForecasts’ report, the U.S.’s share of the world’s online population declined from 19.86 percent in 2004 to 18.3 percent last year, while China’s share crept up from 10.68 percent to 11.1 percent.

Among so-called easily reachable urban residents, a saturated market is hampering further growth in the developed nations, the study said.

The worldwide total number of users is 1.08 billion, up 150 million since 2004, the study said. According to eTForecasts, global Internet use increased nearly 10 times from just 45 million in 1995 to 420 million in 2000. The figure has more than doubled in the five years since that time, and is expected to double again to reach two billion in five years’ time, according to the report.

What is more, Internet user penetration is now in the 65 to 75 percent range for the leading countries and future growth is limited, the study said. Internet user penetration for the “populous and developing” countries is in the 10 to 20 percent range. The developing countries have room to grow and wireless web usage will account for much of future Internet user growth.

“Much of current and future Internet user growth is coming from populous countries such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia. In the next decade many Internet users will be supplementing PC Internet usage with smartphone and mobile device Internet usage,” the study said. “In developing countries many new Internet users will come from cell phone and smartphone Internet usage.”

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