More mobile Internet users than wired in Japan

Users in Japan are more likely to access the Internet from cell phones than PCs

The number of Internet users in Japan accessing from cell phones exceeded those using it from personal computers in 2005, according to a government report published Tuesday.

At the end of the year there were 69.2 million people using the Internet from mobile devices, compared to 66 million conventional PC users, the Ministry of Information and Communications' annual "Information and Communications in Japan" white paper said. Of these two user groups, 48.6 million use both a mobile device and a conventional PC, it said, giving Japan a total Internet population of 85.3 million users. That's equivalent to two in every three people in the country.

Japan's merchants are keen to cash in on the popularity of mobile Internet services like NTT DoCoMo's I-mode. The number of mobile e-commerce sites is increasing and consumers appear to be taking to shopping by cell phone.

In 2005 the total mobile Internet commerce market was worth ¥724 billion ($6.3 billion), according to the report. Sales of mobile content like ringtones and wallpapers still makes up a large proportion of that. Last year was the first in which sales of conventional goods from mobile Internet sites exceeded that of mobile content, the white paper said.

The move towards faster, always-on fixed-line connections continued. Japan had 23.3 million broadband subscriptions at the end of the year, of which 5.5 million were fiber-to-the-home lines. Such connections are generally capable of speeds of 100M bps (bits per second).

Between the two user groups, mobile Internet users access the Internet more frequently. About 55 percent of these users log on at least once per day, compared to 44 percent of PC-based users.

Browsing the Web and checking e-mail remain the most popular uses for the Internet, although consumer-generated media is becoming increasingly popular. In March 2006 there were 8.7 million bloggers in Japan versus 7.2 million users of social networking services, the report said.

Telephone services via the Internet such as VOIP (voice over IP). As of March this year there were 10 million IP telephone lines. A newer type of Internet telephone service that allows consumers to keep their existing phone number is also proving popular and there were 1.4 million of these such lines by the end of March, the report said.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.