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Youth use mobiles for online fun
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-02 05:36

A wave of 40 million new mobile surfers is sweeping the country. These "new netizens" who gain access to WAP-based Internet via mobile phones, are part of the country's 103 million Internet users, the second highest number in the world.

These findings were part of a survey jointly conducted last month by the Internet Society of China, some domestic websites and iResearch Inc, released yesterday at the China Internet Conference in Beijing.

Short for Wireless Application Protocol, WAP is a secure specification that allows users to access information instantly via handheld wireless devices such as mobile phones, pagers and two-way radios.

Among the 35,616 interviewees of the survey, nearly 80 per cent said they are WAP users, and 75 per cent say they surf via mobile phone daily. It says young people between the age of 18 and 28, especially young students, form the bulk of WAP users.

Ring tone and e-game download services outstrip online chat and news browsing in terms of popularity, with more than 40 per cent of the votes.

A large number of "new netizens" say they have high expectations for better access to visible phone, picture and ring tone downloads and online multiplayer games when 3G services become available.

The report also points out that high prices and rampant junk messages are two major obstacles to the development of mobile Internet.

"I have to pay about 10 yuan (US$1.2) to download a game, and 2 yuan (25 US cents) for a ring tone. I think it is expensive," said Li Kai, a 24-year-old WAP user in Beijing.

He has been a mobile surfer for two years and spends about 100 yuan (US$12) each month browsing news and downloading games.

"I use the service two or three times a week, mostly to kill time on bus," said the young man, who has to spend two hours commuting five days a week. "It is convenient," he said.

In addition to the high price, Li said, the limitations of the phone itself, such as small screen and unstable signals in closed spaces, are the other impediment to the pleasure of mobile surfing.

Slow speed is another problem, said Zhou Yi, an adviser with Analysys International.

However, he still expressed his strong confidence in the development of the WAP-based Internet in China, because "it is a fresh method of online surfing and caters to an increasing demand," he said.

Though casting a slight doubt on how the number of 42 million WAP users was calculated, Zhou agreed that the figures are climbing year on year. Official statistics show the country has 386 million mobile users at the present time.

(China Daily 09/02/2005 page2)

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