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A billion cellular phones by 2005, says Nokia

And a glowing multimedia future - but what about jam today?

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Nokia sees a rosy future for mobile phone growth, and has revised its estimates upwards, reckoning that there will now be a billion cellular subscribers world-wide by 2005. And significantly, it sees multimedia as a key factor in this growth. "We now estimate that there will be about one billion subscribers in the year 2005 and that a substantial portion of the phones sold that year will have multimedia capabilities", says president and CEO Jorma Ollila. The billion will quadruple current subscriber numbers, which Nokia says were around 250 million by the middle of this year. Growth in multimedia and data over wireless will require substantial changes in bandwidth, the reliability and capabilities of the service providers and user attitudes - take-up of data over cellular has so far been nowhere near the confident early predictions that were made for it. But Ollila remains optimistic: "The favorable development of a number of initiatives where Nokia has played an important role, such as Bluetooth, the WAP forum and the establishment of Symbian, has increased the visibility of the significant role that data will play in wireless in just a few years time." Broadband wireless multimedia will have to wait until the deployment and maturity of third generation systems, and although these will start going into service early next century, 2005 is seen as optimistic for the fulfilment of Nokia's multimedia dreams by many observers. In the interim Nokia is banking on the deployment of High-Speed Circuit Switched Data capabilities that will take GSM's data rate up from 9.6 kbit/s to 14.4 kbit/s, and also seems to be dreaming on the subject of multi-time slots which would allow speeds of 56 kbit/s. But the service providers don't like this much, and doubt they would have the capacity or the users the bucks to make multi-slot a credible fix for data over cellular. ®

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