Majority of Web Users Wireless by 2002, IDC Says

BOSTON (04/10/2000) - By the end of 2002, the world will have more wireless subscribers capable of Internet access than it will wired users, according to a forecast by International Data Corp. (IDC).

Currently, more than 40 million U.S. households are online, but there are more than 75 million cellular/personal communications systems (PCS) subscribers and over 40 million paging subscribers in the U.S., according to Iain Gillott, an analyst with Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. By mid-2001, all digital cellular/PCS handsets shipped in the world will be WAP (wireless application protocol)-capable, so the number of people accessing the Internet from wireless devices could increase dramatically, Gillott said.

The numbers could also get a boost from telecommunications carriers, which may push customer services via wireless devices as a cost-cutting measure, according to Gillott. For example, it costs from US$1.50 to $2.50 for a carrier to print out a customer's bill and send it through the mail, he said. Sending notification to a customer through their wireless device can cut that cost by as much as a dollar, Gillott said.

The changing numbers will have a huge impact on IS staff and Web masters, Gillott said. Users accessing a Web site via a phone with a little screen will not be able to display the same information that PC users see, he said.

Companies will need to think about displaying the information on their site for wireless device users or perhaps having two sites, he said. Carriers' WAP servers can determine whether a caller is using a PC or a wireless device and direct the traffic to the appropriate site, he said.

Though wireless Web users won't be in the majority for a few years, opportunity already abounds for those who have anticipated this shift, according to Gillott.

"Today, there are companies doing a nice little business saying 'you need to make your site mobile'," Gillott said.

IDC is a subsidiary of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of the IDG News Service. IDC can be reached in Framingham, Massachusetts, at +1-508-872-8200 or at http://www.idc.com/.

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