Ericsson's CEO Kurt Hellstrom set out his company's vision of a future characterised by handheld access to the Web in a keynote speech at the Comdex Fall 2000 conference.
He said that the company based its vision on, "a whole new mindset - one where a phone does not belong to a place, it belongs to a person. It is about personalisation".
Hellstrom's predictions come at a time when the company's mobile handset division is operating at a loss, against a background of mobile handset makers struggling with sales as the market reaches saturation.
In support of his argument, Hellstrom said research showed that the mobile Internet market had grown 4% faster than predicted and forecast that there will be more people on mobile lines than fixed by the end of 2001. "The same thing is happening with the mobile Internet - we believe that it will develop more quickly than the fixed Internet," he said.
Growth of the mobile Internet depends on the availability of high-bandwidth third generation (3G) mobile networks allowing speeds of up to 4mbps, Hellstrom warned. He predicted that the first commercial 3G networks will be available next year, with 90 operators worldwide by the end of 2001 - the first in Japan, then in Europe, followed by the rest of the world
"The mobile will be the device to access the Internet in future. Why? Because it makes life easier. It appeals to the basic need for personal freedom and because of this the mobile Internet will be bigger than the fixed Internet," he said.
Hellstrom said mobile phones are already the world's most popular electronic device, with 700,000 new subscribers daily and mobile handsets outstripping PC sales.
"It is happening right now in Japan," he said. "Three operators serve 17 million people. NTT DoCoMo's i-Mode is the largest. It provides subscribers with e-mail, games, shopping, banking and trading - 2,000 services altogether. It is gaining 5,000 new subscribers a week."