Surfing the Net without wires
Kurt Hellstr?m, CEO, Ericsson
At his keynote speech at the Comdex trade show here, Hellström illustrated the rapid explosion of mobile phones by rattling off some statistics: There are about 700,000 new mobile phone subscribers each day and currently about 650 million cell phone owners worldwide.
"Mobile phones have become the world's best-selling consumer electronics device and are shipping in much larger volumes than PCs," he said.
As a result, more people will use cell phones than traditional telephones by the end of next year, said Hellström, who claims that four out of 10 cell phone subscribers use Ericsson phones.
However, No. 3 cell phone maker Ericsson has been hit by a downturn in cell phone sales over the past year. As a result, Ericsson has cut forecasts for its current fiscal year.
The company battles in a market share war with rivals Motorola and Nokia, with only the latter currently showing a growing cell phone business. Ericsson, however, also relies on sales of its lucrative back-end wireless networking systems, which are expected to drive growth in the coming years.
But such issues played no role in Hellström's upbeat speech.
Internet access via cell phones is starting to take off, he noted. The number of Web-enabled cell phones sold using Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) technology will grow from 3 million in July to 26 million by year's end, he said.
Right now, Hellström said, the ability to send short email messages is the fastest-growing application on cell phones, with about 10 billion text messages sent each month.
Telecommunications carriers and service providers are furiously building new wireless networks to keep up with the market. Next year, Japan will become the first nation to offer high-speed wireless Net access, called third-generation wireless, with other European and Asian countries offering it shortly thereafter.
Hellström predicts that carriers and service providers will offer even faster wireless service, called fourth-generation wireless, by 2010.
During a press conference after the keynote, Hellström said he expects that a joint venture between Ericsson and Microsoft will ship a new, improved email service by the end of the year.