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Mobile phone handset sales in the first quarter were much brisker than expected and could reach 470 million units by the end of the year.

According to new figures from research company Gartner Dataquest, sales reached 112.7 million handsets in the January to March quarter, a rise of 18 percent over the same period last year. Holding on to the number one position was Nokia of Finland with a 35 percent share of worldwide sales, or 39.5 million handsets.

But the most noteworthy performance was by the number three, Samsung of Korea, which steadily ate away at rivals' market share throughout 2002. During the first quarter, Samsung saw sales of 11.9 million units, to secure 10.5 percent of the worldwide market, an impressive 33 percent growth in market share over last year. Nokia managed a market share increase of 20 percent.

Rounding out the top five were Motorola in second place with 16.6 million units sold (14.7 percent of the market), Siemens in fourth place with 8.6 million units (7.6 percent market share) and Sony Ericsson with just 5.4 million units sold (4.8 percent market share).

The joint venture company Sony Ericsson boasted at the time of its inception in 2001 that it would be the number one mobile phone maker, but the company's products have so far failed to capture the public's imagination. Its share of global sales tumbled more than 10 percent between the first quarter of 2002 and the first quarter of 2003. Gartner analysts Ben Wood told the Financial Times that Sony Ericsson may find it "very challenging" to meet its target of reaching breakeven and securing at least 7 percent market share by the end of the year.

Wood also told the paper that it is unclear whether the first quarter was an anomaly or a sign that sustained growth has returned to the mobile phone market. If sales between April and December follow the trend of the first quarter, the final tally for 2003 could be 470 million handsets, a rise of more than 11 percent over last year's total of 423 million units.

Growth in the mobile phone industry was virtually stagnant in 2002, with sales rising just 6 percent over the previous year.

© ENN

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