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Around a third of the world’s mobile internet users will come from China by 2016, driving a boom in the digital entertainment and media market, although concerns persist over digital piracy across some Asian countries, according to a new report.

PricewaterhouseCooper’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2012-2016 reveals that spending on digital content and advertising is set to reach two-thirds of all spending in the market over the next four years, with mobile leading the way.

The number of mobile internet users will more than double to 2.9 billion by 2016, of which almost one billion will be in China, PwC said.

India is slightly less mature and by 2016 will probably only have around one third of the mobile internet population of China, despite its huge size, but will nevertheless experience CAGR of 50.8 per cent over the period, making it the fastest growth market for mobile internet in the world.

China’s ascendancy is being driven by the perfect storm of a huge mobile phone user base, cheaper handsets, better networks and innovative apps and services from the content providers, according to PwC partner Cecilia Yau.

She acknowledged that with most Chinese still on feature phones and given the connectivity problems that have plagued 3G in the People’s Republic, many users may be still be limited to very basic internet services on their phones.

However, Yau pointed to heavy government investment and the gathering pace behind the country’s 4G roll-out as proof that the future is bright for entertainment and media peddlers.

“You have to remember that people with mobile devices are not just relying on mobile networks – they also use Wi-Fi at home which sort of compensates [for patchy network service],” she added.

The importance of the mobile market to future revenue growth was also highlighted by Android-maker Google, who recently released a piece of research claiming 54 per cent of Chinese consumers preferred mobile devices to watching TV.

Another potential stumbling block to greater revenue for the fat cats in the shiny glass entertainment and media corps is digital piracy, although at least in China there has been something of a crackdown of late.

Last year, for example, search engine Baidu – which used to provide deep links to illegal downloads – signed a licensing deal with Sony, Universal and Warner, in a sign things are increasingly going legit in the People’s Republic.

The same is not necessarily true for the rest of Asia.

“In emerging markets the piracy issue may not be a priority,” Yau told The Reg.

“Market share, internet penetration and the economy are more important for some governments, so we’re seeing different levels of regulation and maturity across the region.” ®

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