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The online population will rise to one billion people - more than double the current level - by 2005, and the majority of users will use wireless devices to get online.

There are just over 400 million people globally who can get online at the moment, but according to a report from market researchers eTForecasts, in four and a half years time there will be more like 1.17 billion net heads around the world.

Most of the population growth will be in Asia, Latin America and parts of Europe, the report said. And wireless access will also be more popular in these regions.

In the US and the UK two thirds of people will still be wire bound by 2005, but overall, 62 per cent of the billion people online will have made the shift to wire-free surfing.

The report's author, Egil Juliussen, said that wireless access had flopped in Europe and the US because it had been "oversold". "People were expecting PC Internet on their small screens," he said.

However, he told Newsbytes that he didn't expect high end devices like PDAs to account for more than ten per cent of devices connected to the web.

Rather, Juliussen said, this explosion of wireless users would be driven by "dormant" WAP phones and similar device, starting to be used for their intended purposes as the services offered improve. ®

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