China’s online population sees slower growth

The number of Internet users in China grew at a markedly slower rate during the first half of 2003 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest figures released by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) in its Semi-annual Survey Report on the Development of the Internet in China.

The report didn’t say why growth slowed during the first half of the year, but China’s overall economy, including sales of some IT products and services, was slowed by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) earlier this year.

The number of Chinese Internet users climbed 15 per cent during the first half of 2003 to reach 68 million, up from 59.1 million at the start of the year, CNNIC reported. That was significantly slower than the growth rate for the first half of 2002, when the number increased 35.5 per cent to 45.8 million.

Of the 59.1 million users online in January, 20.2 million connected over leased lines, 40.8 million used dial-up connections, 4.3 million connected over Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and 6.6 million had broadband connections, including Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable, CNNIC said at the time. (The survey re-counts users with more than one method of connecting to the Internet.)

The number of broadband users in China saw the fastest growth over the first half of 2003, growing by more than 50 per cent to 9.8 million, according to the report. Looking at other modes of connectivity, China presently has 23.4 million users connected over leased lines, 45 million using dial-up and 4.9 million using ISDN, according to the report.

The sharp growth in broadband connections reported by CNNIC confirms earlier observations by market research company BDA China Ltd., which said that the spread of SARS had boosted the growth of broadband subscriptions in cities like Beijing.