updated 2/23/2006 10:43:11 AM ET 2006-02-23T15:43:11

China's mobile phone market, already the world's biggest, has passed 400 million users, the government said Thursday.

The number of subscribers on the country's mainland rose 5.4 million in January to 398 million, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Ministry of Information Industry.

It said that with further growth this month, the total number has hit 400 million by this point, though it didn't give an exact figure.

China set up its first mobile phone network in 1987 and took a decade to reach 10 million customers.

In 2003, the number of mobile phones in China surpassed that of fixed-line phones.

Xinhua also said mobile phone customers sent 33.8 billion text messages in January, up 65.7 percent from the same month last year.

The wireless industry association, CTIA, predicts there are approximately 204 million cellular phone users in the United States.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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