More Chinese use mobiles than landlines

China has more mobile-phone users than it does landlines, according to government figures for 2003

China, the world's largest mobile market, now has more mobile subscribers than it has landline users, according to official government figures.

In the course of 2003, China added 63 million new subscribers to its mobile networks, the government said, taking the total to around 269 million, compared to the 263 million landlines in the country. However, the number of landlines has also continued to increase, rising by 49 million.

In the coming years, the rate of uptake is expected to level off, although subscriber numbers will continue to grow by just over 50 million next year, spurred by falling handset prices and better availability.

The eyes of the mobile heavyweights in China will now be turning to provincial areas, because the majority of the country's current subscribers live in cities, leaving the companies more room for expansion in the countryside.

And that's exactly what major players China Mobile and China Network are banking on, having announced that the former will be buying up 10 provincial networks, while the latter has its eyes on nine others.