"Wireless is the wave of the future, and it's coming sooner than you think." That's the world according to Kurt Hellstr"m, president of Ericsson Telephone.

Bringing communications to many people who never had access to fixed-line networks, the number of mobile phone subscribers is set to double to reach 1 billion within less than three years, Hellstr"m said on the opening day of the three-day World Congress on Information Technology in Taipei, Taiwan.

And the next phase in wireless communications, the mobile Internet, promises to bring even faster growth, predicted Hellstr"m in a speech.

"In 2003 the number of mobile Internet users will surpass the number of fixed-line users," said Hellstr"m.
The challenge, however, will be to get people everywhere, including those in the developing world, on board.

It is a task that must be addressed jointly by governments, international bodies, and individual companies, he said. "Together we must work to ensure that the new world of communications is for everybody, also the five billion people that are not part of this world today."

The industry, however, has not come as far as it should when it comes to shouldering responsibility for social development, admitted Hellstr"m. "We must understand that the new economy is not just about market growth, but just as much about the global village we all live in," he said.

As mobile networks can be installed in a speedy and cost-effective manner, this can bring modern communications to regions that have been left behind for decades, said Hellstr"m. In China, for example, mobile operators are signing up approximately 2.5 million new subscribers every month, he said in a question-and-answer session following his presentation.