Nokia: 2 billion cell phone users by 2006

Adoption is accelerating faster than previously expected in some of the world's most populous countries, the company says.

Nokia has upped its predictions for the growth of the global mobile phone market after calculating that adoption is accelerating more quickly than previously thought in some of the world's largest countries.

Ilkka Lakaniemi, an economist at Nokia's network division, said Wednesday that the Finnish manufacturer estimates there will be more than 2 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide by 2006--compared with around 1.6 billion subscriptions today.

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Previously, Nokia had forecast that this milestone would not be hit until 2008.

Nokia's new optimism, which comes after some tough years for mobile manufacturers and operators, is based on growth rates in several of the world's most populous countries.

"For the first time in history, mobile phones offer people in countries like China, India and Brazil access to telecommunications services that they did not previously have," Lakaniemi said.

India currently has more than 43 million mobile phone subscribers, and its mobile market has been growing at a rate of over 50 percent in the last few years. Last week, Nokia announced plans to open a new manufacturing plant in India as part of its effort to meet growing demand for mobile devices in the country.

Lakaniemi explained that because mobile phones have now been in use for around 15 years, enough data exists for economists such as himself to calculate their value to individuals and businesses. Nokia said that companies that embrace mobility can expect to see productivity jump by as much as 6 percent.

Nokia also is tracking the extent to which mobile phones are overtaking landlines in terms of total voice traffic. The company believes that by 2007, the two will be neck and neck--as they are already in Finland, according to Lakaniemi.

In the United Kingdom today, fixed networks have just over a 70 percent share of all voice traffic, Nokia said. By 2008, that number will have fallen to below 60 percent, the device maker estimated.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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