The number of Internet users in Japan rose 59.7% to 27.6 million in 1999 according to a report by Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).

The report also found that Internet penetration in Japan now stands at 21.4%, which ranks it 13th worldwide, and that subscribers to i-Mode and other mobile Internet services passed the 10 million mark this May.

The MPT also estimated that the number of Internet users will rise to 76.7 million by 2005, with growth being driven by the rapid expansion of shopping, banking, ticketing and other Internet services accessed via cellular phones. The report also estimates that Japan's e-commerce market will soar from Y172.9bn ($1.63bn) in 1999 to Y4,520.6bn ($42.65bn) in 2005.

Despite these impressive numbers, Japan still lags behind the US, where Internet penetration has reached 39.4%.