The Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) region now has about 100 million mobile phone subscribers, up from 61 million at the beginning of 1999, according to International Data Corp (IDC).
The volume of users - perhaps three times the number of PC users - offers a good opportunity for vendors and integrators to offer wireless application protocol (WAP) services for Internet access and electronic commerce, Sandra Ng, IDC's vice president of communications and peripheral research said at the IDC Directions Asia conference.
Already some countries in the region have extremely high mobile phone penetration, but applications are limited to certain areas and thus there is a limited set of users.
Growth in use will depend on the availability of higher-speed networks using general packet radio service (GPRS) and ultimately third-generation (3G) technology, Ng said.
There is still a shortage of WAP-enabled phones, a lack of knowledge of WAP in the mass market and a lack of content for WAP devices, Ng said.
"WAP content has to be localised since this is largely a consumer market," she said. "For example, many countries have their own lotteries - that content is meaningless to other countries."
But mobile phones have an opportunity to stake a place in e-commerce as they can be used as a purchasing medium which is more secure than credit cards. This will lead to a new kind of service provider - a collector - which acts as a gateway between the service provider, content provider, user and the banks.