China’s Broadband Penetration Is Increasingly Lagging Behind Developed Nations, Says MIIT’s Research Head

The research chief of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said yesterday (link via Google Translate) that there is still a significant gap between China’s broadband coverage and that of developed nations, and that the lag is increasing.

At a panel about the future of digital technology, MIIT research chief Liu Duo said that despite government efforts to increase broadband penetration, China’s coverage still trails behind countries like the U.S. and Japan and that the gap is widening. Last year, the number of broadband users in China reached 159 million, or a 11.7 percent penetration rate, compared to an average of 25.7 percent in developed economies. The Chinese government has said that it aims to increase broadband coverage to 95 percent by 2015. Other problems facing Internet users include the relatively high price of broadband, poor connections and customer service, disparity in coverage between cities and rural areas, and lack of infrastructure.

Last month, the MIIT said that it plans to extend 4M broadband coverage to more than 70 percent of China’s Internet users by the end of this year as part of the Broadband China initiative, which was launched in the middle of 2012. The government also said it intends to add 1.3 million wireless hotspots throughout the country as part of the plan.

As of December 2012, China had 564 million Internet users, a penetration rate of 39.9 percent,¬†according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center. Expanding broadband coverage is key to improving Internet infrastructure for small- to mid-sized businesses, especially since China is lagging behind other member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED). Futhermore, it is also important as China’s government increases its focus on developing related sectors such as critical chipsets, software and system industries.

While the Chinese government is focused on broadband coverage, it’s important to note that more and more Chinese consumers are using mobile to get on the Internet for the first time, spurred by the increasing availability of low-cost Android-based smartphones from domestic manufacturers. Last July, the government reported that 388 million Internet users logged on using the mobile, up from 356 million in December 2011.