China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has issued a public prediction that the country’s Internet user base will reach 800 million in 2015, as noted by Marbridge Daily.

MIIT official Miao Wei attributed the expected increase to the expansion of its “Broadband China” project, which is committed to bringing broadband connections to more regions throughout the world’s most populous nation.

Third quarter numbers from the MIIT placed China’s Internet user base at 550 million. Figures from the first half of 2012 by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) pegged the country’s online population at 538 million, up 11 percent year-over-year. Internet penetration was estimated to have reached 39.9 percent.

Extrapolating a bit, China likely had about 565 million Internet users at the end of 2012. To reach its own projections, the country would need to add 135 million netizens over the next three years, or about 11 million per quarter. It’s a fairly realistic goal, given that it has been growing at a similar rate.

With Chinese citizens increasingly turning to mobile Internet as their preferred connectivity, Internet penetration may be poised to ramp up even more quickly than expected. The country already has more than 1 billion mobile phone subscribers, and many of those are jumping on to the data wagon. Domestic carriers already report more than 200 million 3G data users on their networks, and improved smartphone penetration and the eventual arrival of 4G should continue to spur adoption.

Recent developments suggest that China is in the midst of making the domestic version of the Internet even more separate from foreign sites and networks. Language barriers and new regulations stand in the way of foreign Internet companies looking to reach the Chinese market, but the allure of the country’s growing connected population will be a hard one to resist.

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