Japan’s Internet users near 63 million says survey

The total number of Internet users in Japan rose 11.3 per cent during the year to hit just under 63 million at the end of February, according to a survey published Tuesday.

Japan had 62.8 million users at the end of February, according to the Internet White Paper, which is published once a year by research group Access Media International Inc. and local IT publisher Impress Group. A year earlier the total stood at 56.4 million and based on the growth is expected to reach 67 million at the end of this year, the report said.

Among users, about 22.8 million said they access the Internet mainly from home; about 20.6 million said they access mainly from home and work or school/university; about 10.7 million mainly from work or school/university, and 8.8 million mainly from a cellular telephone.

Residential access is increasingly via broadband connection. Just over 48 per cent of the more than 22,000 people who participated in the survey said they used a broadband connection from their home with the remaining using a narrowband dial-up analogue or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) line. A year ago about 39 per cent said they used broadband and in 2002 the figure was 18.5 per cent.

Japan has some of the cheapest and fastest broadband services in the world, according to a recent report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Ranked by price per 100Kbps of bandwidth per month, Japan leads the world at US$0.09 thanks to high-speed, low-price services. The only other country below US$1 was South Korea, which was ranked at US$0.25. In contrast broadband rates per 100Kbps of bandwidth per month were equivalent to US$2.21 in Singapore; US$3.25 in Canada; US$3.53 in the U.S., and US$4.42 in Germany, said the ITU.

There were 11.5 million DSL subscribers in Japan at the end of April, according to data from Japan’s Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. Fibre-to-the-home subscriptions were 1.2 million and cable Internet subscriptions were 2.6 million.

Despite the enthusiastic adoption of broadband, users are not flocking in large numbers to multimedia applications that make use of the speed at their disposal. The most popular reason for accessing the Internet, based on a number of choices presented to respondents, was to visit community Web sites. Auction sites ranked second followed by personal home pages, then mailing lists and in fifth place was reading e-mail based newsletters.

The popularity of file-sharing networks appears to be falling, according to the survey. Around 18 per cent of respondents said they were aware of peer to peer applications, which was down from 25 per cent in 2003. The survey was conducted around the same time Japanese police made a number of arrests associated with Internet file sharing.