Wireless technology in the US is set for dramatic growth over the next three years as the Internet and consumer demand for data increases, an industry panel predicted this week.
According to a group of wireless experts at the Consumer Electronics Show, there will be one billion wireless users by 2003 and by 2004 almost 400 million of them will be using wireless devices to access the Web.
Panellist Bo Dimert, president of US operations at Ericsson, said: "There are more mobile phones than personal computers in the world and that gap is set to increase further."
The panellists said they expect wireless devices to perform a wide range of functions including peer to peer communications, digital chats and banking transactions, as well as paging and voice communications.
However, Bill Lenahan, president of Bell South Wireless Data, said he felt there would still be a need for two wireless devices, one for voice and the other for two-way messaging, enterprise email connectivity and interactive data services.
"I do not believe multiple data applications can be stuffed into any one voice phone," he argued, "People will have to carry two devices."
The panellists believe wireless communication products will soon be embedded into appliances to carry out remote maintenance and monitoring, and that wireless equipment could be woven into clothes and worn. They may even replace credit cards and wireline telephones.
Mark Lowenstein, analyst at Yankee Group, predicted that the industry will become increasingly innovative with hardware. He said that "in the next one to three years, we'll see more device innovation than we saw in the previous five years."
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