By 2004, network operators will clock up more than one billion mobile subscriptions, including both phone and other wireless devises, according to UK consultancy ARC Group. ARC predicts the number of people that regularly access mobile data will sky rocket to 750 million in 2004, compared to around 31 million users in 1999. This represents more than half of all mobile users.
"By 2004, we'll see devises that get data from the Internet, but you won't consciously surf the Net," said Steve Maynard, ARC consultant and author of the report.
"Take Bluetooth: the whole idea is to have a cellular devise that can sit in your briefcase, not necessarily a phone, just a wireless terminal," said Maynard.
Worldwide Internet users will rise by 430 million, hitting the 671 million mark in 2004. Even though mobile data users will outnumber Internet user, they will only account for 1.5 percent of the total traffic as mobile data applications are not expected to generate large volumes of traffic.
The boom in cheaper, smaller, smarter mobile devises will gradually kill off the pager marker. The number of pager users will only climb to 398 million by 2004.
Arc also said by 2002, third generation mobile standards, also know as 3G, including the Universal Mobile Transmission Systems (UMTS) will stretch bandwidth to 2 megabits per second. Of mobile data usage, around 17 percent will use 3G networks, 14 percent will use Coder Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and 56 percent will be using Global Systems for Mobile communication (GSM) networks.
The arrival of third generation (3G) wireless services will kill off traditional ISPs and usher in a new age of information providers. The latter comprise companies that bundle services and sell them onto network operators.
But the mobile industry has yet to find the killer application. One possibility is localised information services that is personalised by the user and requires the transmission of very small quantities of data, according to ARC.
"It's interesting to see the way the wireless world works with limitations on bandwidth, size and applications. It's being forced to find a simpler system that appeals to everyone," added Maynard.
Another stumbling block is present day tariff structures. These need to be overhauled to allow the wireless industry to grow: Per second billing for internet/intranet access and a flat rate for information services, according to ARC.
Researchers also found that while more fixed line Internet user dabbled in e-commerce in 1999, this would be reversed over the next five years.