Study: 1.3B wireless data users by 2004

As a result, more than 1.5 billion mobile phone handsets, personal digital assistants and Internet appliances are expected to be equipped with wireless capabilities by the end of 2004, Cahners said.

Messaging will be the primary driver of wireless data adoption, according to the Cahners study. The number of wireless messages sent per month will rise rapidly from 3 billion in December 1999 to 244 billion by December 2004, the company estimates.

Other features such as mobile commerce applications, entertainment, real-time financial information, travel and location-based information services -- getting directions to the closest restaurant or bank -- will also be popular but will take longer to reach the market, according to the study.

To ensure that wireless data catches on, carriers must deploy new infrastructure and install new equipment to enable location-based services, high-level security, micro-payment options and detailed billing, the study noted.

The US, Europe and Asia have different perspectives on wireless data technology, according to the study.

In the US, there are 60 million households with wired Internet access, which may discourage the use of lower-bandwidth wireless communications. But many people will still opt for the technology to gain increased mobility and convenience, the study noted.

In Europe and Japan in particular, wireless Web access is widely accepted and will become even more valuable when third-generation wireless networks increase mobile data throughput from 9.6K bps (bits per second) to 384K bps, according to the study.

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