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China to cross 1 billion mobile mark next week

China is on the verge of becoming the first country to crack the 1 billion mobile subs mark.

At the current rate of net adds, it is likely to hit the milestone mark in the first few days of March.

Customer numbers at the end of January totalled 987.6 million, up 11.88 million for the month, according to filings this week from the three operators.

At the January rate of 383,000 new services a day – which is presumably down because of the Chinese New Year holiday – the total should pass 1 billion in the first few days of March. 

The only other candidate for this exclusive club, India, is on track to pass 1 billion by year-end. India added 9.47 million subs in December to reach 893.84 million at the end of 2011.

Of course, in the case of both countries, the number is theoretical, representing either the number of SIM cards sold, or services connected to the HLR, rather than services in use.

It’s also meaningless - yet admittedly compelling - yet it represents the mobile's relentless march over the last 25 years.

Understandably, officials will take the opportunity to shout the news from the rooftop. When they do, let’s hope they acknowledge that the mobile phone has been instrumental in their phenomenal economic growth rather than, as they might like to think, the other way around.

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