The head of China Mobile, the largest mobile carrier in the world, has seen part of the firm's future growth in the e-reader market.

Wang Jianzhou, executive and chairman of China Mobile, called e-reading a new culture and said he expects such services to grow in China because of the rising popularity of smart phones, which can download content faster than conventional cell phones.

Wang said China Mobile is also promoting the use of e-readers, a palm-sized unit that allows people to receive large volumes of content on a screen that does not glare into the eyes like cell phones.

The carrier already has 40 million customers who receive news briefs daily with their cell phones.

That has exceeded the circulation of many newspapers, Wang said at a panel discussion hosted by Taiwan's Business Weekly in Taipei on Monday night.

Wang is on a nine-day visit to Taiwan to sign up new partners in the communications industry, including service providers and smartphone makers.

He reached a deal on Monday with Taiwan's High Tech Computer (HTC), the world's largest maker of handsets based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform, to jointly develop smartphones that will run with its 3G network.

Wang said he has also placed an e-reader order with Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer.

Without providing details, Wang said China Mobile will spend at least 120 billion yuan ($17.5 billion) over the next three years on mobile products, including cell phones, laptops and e-readers.

Previously the company said it would spend 58.8 billion yuan (US$8.6 billion) on 3G network build-outs in 2009.

Taiwanese publishers will be asked to provide content for the company's e-book business, he added.

China currently has 680 million cell phone users and China Mobile tops in mobile carriers with nearly 500 million subscribers. E-reader sales to these customers are expected to top several million easily surpassing sales figures in America.