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Study: Wireless Market Shows Steady Growth

The wireless Internet market is growing at a steady pace, according to industry research.

A new report from In-Stat/MDR predicts that the number of wireless subscribers worldwide will increase from 74 million people at the end of 2001 to more than 320 million by the end of 2006.

The larger messaging market will grow at a similar pace, the research firm said, reaching more than 1 billion subscribers by the end of 2006, up from an estimated 305 million at the end of 2001. Becky Diercks, a director with In-Stat/MDR, attributes the growth in that market to the availability of new color handsets and the rollouts of next-generation networks with services such as multimedia messaging services (MMS).

"CDMA 1xRTT is really pushing the market along," she said. "The carriers are also doing a better job of tying services to the technology."

In addition to services, pricing will be a determining factor in the future of the wireless Internet market. "In most regions, service pricing is completely inconsistent and far too expensive for the average consumer," said Diercks.

There have been positive moves in recent weeks, though, she said, including Orange's announcement of "bargain basement" GPRS pricing in Europe, Nextel's and Verizon Wireless' flat pricing in the United States, and Sprint PCS' slashed prices on its Vision service.

Not surprisingly, Japan far exceeds the United States in terms of the number of wireless subscribers; 46 million of the 74 million subscribers at the end of 2001 were in Japan, compared with 5.8 million in the United States. However, the InStat/MDR report said that Japan's Wideband CDMA (WCDMA)-based Freedom of Mobile Access (FOMA) service is not taking off for a number of reasons, including minimal coverage, high prices and a lack of compelling applications.