LAS VEGAS -- The mobile Internet will soon be "bigger than the fixed Internet," said L.M. Ericsson Telephone's President Kurt Hellström in a keynote presentation here Tuesday.
Hellström used Swedish statistics to back up his claim that the mobile Internet is coming, saying that 70 percent of all Swedes have mobile phones, 60 percent of Swedish households have access to the Internet, and 25 percent of Swedish households plan to have broadband access within the next 12 months.
In 2001, "More people will be using mobile phones than fixed phones throughout the world," Hellström said.
And the next step for the company? "It's really quite logical -- we will cut the cords of the Internet. We firmly believe that the mobile Internet will soon be bigger than the fixed Internet," Hellström said.
Anything that stimulates demand for mobile communications terminals spells good news for the telecommunications equipment manufacturer, which has seen profits at its handset division slump in recent months.
Hellström gave over most of the time allocated to his keynote speech to a demonstration of the company's latest mobile phone handset for the North American market, leaving the stage while a colleague put the R380 World through its paces.
In a slick demonstration of the power of WAP (Wireless Applications Protocol), one part did not quite work out. Ironically, in a city where casinos are 10 a penny, an online search for information about gambling was as fruitless as an hour at a slot machine.
Summoned back to the stage by a text message sent by his colleague, Hellström said WAP "had a somewhat shaky start," but will soon be in a dominant position. In his address, Hellström said that in the early 1980s analysts predicted that there would be 1 million mobile phone users worldwide by 2000.
In fact, Hellström said, the number today is closer to 650 million users, and by 2001 there will be more people in the world using mobile than fixed phones.
One keynote attendee, Bonnie Home, vice president at Home Computing Services, based in San Jose, Calif., was particularly impressed with the rapid rate of growth of mobile communications.
"I was amazed about the statistic that there will be more mobile than fixed phones," Home said. "I was also impressed that the growth has always been greater than projections. I don't know of many other industries that have exceeded expectations by so far."
Hellström's keynote was packed with optimistic growth projections for mobile subscribers as well as powerful claims that the mobile Internet will spark "the birth of an everyday revolution." Responding to this future outlook, keynote attendee Rene Labrosee, founder of Alpha In Time Management System, in Montreal, said research holds the key to the industry's development.
"Every company here [at Comdex] has their own vision of the future. We don't know if it will be true the way they say it will be. Nobody knows where the mobile communications industry will go. But forward-looking companies like Ericsson "put more pressure on the [industry] to accept that vision," Labrosee said.
"A lot of the future development of the mobile Internet depends on research and development. Research will have a big impact on whether it lives up to expectations," Labrosee said.