The mobile Internet market in China has grown at an unexpected pace, offering huge opportunities and challenges, industry watchers said at the China Internet Conference 2012, which began Tuesday in Beijing.
Mobile data traffic grew tenfold in the 18 months to May this year in China, accounting for some 10 percent of the total global Internet activity, said Wu Hequan, an academician of the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Engineering.
"By the end of this year, mobile traffic in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be over 20 percent of the total global Internet activity," said Wu.
According to the Internet Society of China, the domestic mobile Internet market was worth 12.7 billion yuan ($1.89 billion) in the second quarter, up 108.9 percent year-on-year.
However, PC-based surfing has started to decline. From June 2012 to 2013, PC-based surfing traffic is expected to drop, which will put more pressure on PC-based companies to fight for a share of the mobile Internet market, Yu Yongfu, CEO of UCWeb Inc, told the Tencent news portal Monday.
The number of people using Internet cafés has plunged and users are increasingly turning to mobile devices to surf the Web, Yu said.
"The slowdown in the growth of PC-based surfing was mainly brought about by unbalanced economic development," Sun Peilin, an industry analyst with Analysys International, told the Global Times.
"Rural residents in some regions found it hard to get online as they could not afford a computer. But many of them have mobile phones and therefore can be potential clients of mobile Internet services," said Sun.
By the end of June, the number of mobile phone-based Web users surpassed that of PC-based users for the first time in China, with 388 million people using mobile phones to surf the Internet and 380 million using computers, according to China Internet Network Information Center.
"The trend will be even more obvious in the coming years, with mobile phones becoming more intelligent and functional," Sun said.
Since the second half of 2011, Internet companies have rushed to join hands with handset producers to gain access to the mobile Internet market. Google spent some $12.5 billion to buy Motorola in August last year, for instance.
Meanwhile, Qihoo 360 Technology Co said in May that it would partner with Huawei Technology Co to release smartphones.
"China is in the opening stages of its mobile Internet business; it is a time for companies to develop their strategic plans for the sector," said Shen Sui, an analyst at iResearch Consulting Group in Shanghai.
Some firms have put the mobile Internet market at the center of their future development plans, but at the moment the most important thing is to build a large user base by offering products with a good user experience and functions, Shen said.