In 2003, China, even excluding Hong Kong, accounted for the largest DSL (digital subscriber line) population in the world at 10.95 million. Its surge pushed Japan into second place with 10.27 million, the United States into third place with 9.12 million and South Korea fourth at 6.43 million, according to the DSL Forum.
"China is storming ahead," said Tim Johnson, the founder of Point Topic, the company that carried out the research on behalf of the DSL Forum, based in Fremont, Calif.
The total number of DSL subscribers around the world reached 63.8 million at the end of 2003, the group said.
via telephone lines. It competes with broadband offerings from cable operators and satellite companies.
The group added that Asia-Pacific continues to be the largest DSL region globally with more than 20 million subscribers, or 32 percent of the worldwide subscriber base.
Countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Australia also helped boost Asia's broadband penetration rates last year. Japan secured 4.6 million DSL subscribers, recording a growth of 82 percent, while Taiwan grew by 38 percent with 775,460 new subscribers. Australia added 300,000 DSL users, growing by 173 percent compared with 2002, the DSL Forum said.
The group said Asia-Pacific is home to the only two countries to have achieved mass-market status in terms of DSL penetration. For a country to be considered mass-market, at least 20 percent of its phone lines must be DSL-ready. Korea leads the way at 27.7 percent, with Taiwan in second place at 21.4 percent.
The DSL Forum President Tom Starr said he aims to have 200 million DSL subscribers worldwide by the end of 2005.
Zen Lee of CNETAsia reported from Singapore.