The number of cellular phone subscribers in the Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) region grew almost 14.5 million last year, according to industry newsletter Global Mobile. There were 37.53 million mobile customers at the end of December 1997, with about a third of these in the mainland. However, the rate of subscriber growth in the region has been on a downtrend, growing 62.8 per cent last year against 67.8 per cent in 1996. The Asian financial crisis fallout on subscriber numbers became evident in the fourth quarter. The fastest growing region in the world last year was Western Europe, which picked up about 20 million new users in the period. North America - including the United States and Canada - is still the world's largest cellular market, with 58.5 million subscribers. However, growth in the continent is slowing. There were 11 million new customers last year, compared with 11.15 million a year earlier. If this trend continues, Western Europe will overtake North America as the world's largest mobile market some time in the middle of this year.