There are about 700,000 new mobile phone subscribers each day and currently about 650 million cell phone owners worldwide. In 2001, an incredible 550 million cellphones are expected to be bought by people worldwide. In Europe, USD 225 billion has been committed towards building the next generation wireless telecommunications infrastructure, with more than half going towards licence fees.
In Japan, over 15 million access the Net regularly through their cellphones. In India, the number of cellphone users has nearly doubled this year to about 3 million. In some Latin American countries, wireless subscribers now outnumber customers of traditional fixed-line telephone companies. Wireless customers, for instance, account for almost 60 percent of phone subscribers in Paraguay.
Part of the appeal of the cellphone is in that it is both mobile and personal. It makes us always-connected to the voice world, and it is our very own. Companies like Nokia and Ericsson have made cellphones a status symbol, a lifestyle product. But, cellphones are increasingly becoming the lifeline for the people in developing countries. An excerpt from a recent article in the New York Times entitled, “Cell Phone surge among the world’s poor”:
With financially distressed governments often unable to provide adequate public services, including telephones, people are turning to privately built wireless networks as a way to communicate over extended distances.
Poor countries, where perhaps four-fifths of the world’s people live, had about 40 percent of mobile phone lines in 1999, up from 20 percent in 1995. But those same countries had only about 5 percent of the hub computers of the Internet, according to Emmanuel Forestier, an economist at the World Bank.
“It’s undisputed that wireless technology has had a far greater impact on people’s lives in developing countries than the Internet,” Mr. Forestier said.
Tomorrow’s devices will combine the two most important developments of the past decade – the Internet and the cellphone. Writes the Financial Times, “Handsets of tomorrow will become more intelligentThe mobile phone will start to become a computer. You will be able to download and save a game on the handset: it will work even without a network connection. Or you could display the price of a stock and a graph of its performance, or an interactive road map.” Or the latest commodity prices, and the weather.