The Wireless Internet Revolution
The wireless communications industry has seen rapid growth in the past several years. This has made wireless communication one of the fastest growing technology areas in the world. The total number of cellular phone subscribers worldwide exceeded one billion in 2002, and it has been estimated that there will be over 1.5 billion wireless subscribers in the world by 2005. This far exceeds the number of personal computer users in the world, which was estimated to be about 500 million in 2002. The total annual sales of cell phones in the world is expected to grow from about 423 million phones sold in 2002 to nearly 600 million phones sold in 2006.
At the same time, the rapid emergence of the Internet has changed the landscape of modern computing. People have become more and more dependent on the information that is available on the Internet, and they will increasingly want to access the Internet not only from their personal computers and office workstations but also from mobile, wireless devices. Consequently, the rapid and efficient deployment of new wireless data and mobile Internet services has become a high priority for communication equipment manufacturers and telecommunication operators.
The transition to wireless, mobile Internet devices will fundamentally alter the landscape and architecture of communication networks, devices, and services. Unlike in the past, when wireless devices typically came from the factory with a hard-coded feature set, the devices will become more and more customizable. The possibility to download new applications and features over wireless networks will open up completely new possibilities for device manufacturers, network operators, service and content providers, and device users themselves.
The wireless Internet revolution will be facilitated by another important technological advance: the introduction of broadband third- and fourth-generation wireless networks. While current wireless networks have limited data rates, allowing the users to transfer only up to a few tens of kilobits of data per second, broadband wireless networks will provide data rates ranging from hundreds of kilobits up to several megabits per second. This will provide enough bandwidth to transfer photographs, live video, and high-quality audio, as well as to download significantly larger applications and services than today.
All these changes will happen relatively fast. Even though it will still take a few years before broadband wireless networks are in widespread use, it is safe to estimate that the majority of new wireless devices will have high-speed connectivity to the Internet by the end of the decade.