Only a dream a decade ago, wireless technology today stands on the precipice of a great future. The future starts with trend-leaders in places like Finland, which is serving as a sort of wireless laboratory, as 63.2 percent of Finns use mobile phones. (In contrast, about 30 percent of Americans use wireless technology.) The citizens of Finland bank online, shop, rent apartments, get sports results, peruse announcements of cultural events, obtain theater information, and receive frivolous information like the joke of the day. (See our TechRepublic article on “Wireless Internet: Don’t hold your breath.”)

Professionals who use wireless want e-mail delivered on their phones. Those who already have wireless e-mail want to be able to see attachments. And that’s only the beginning. They want video conferencing, news, music, and more (see table 1). These applications are all in the works, but before they become commonplace, providers will need to overcome such obstacles as competing technologies and the current lack of standards.

Today, data traffic makes up less than 2 percent of mobile traffic, but that statistic should change radically by 2003 when data is expected to make up 45 percent of wireless traffic (see table 2). Wireless Internet’s newest iterations—surfing, delivery of daily news, video conferencing, photography, and more—is expected to be available in the third generation of wireless technology.

Cahners In-Stat Group estimates that the wireless data market will include 25 million users by 2003. Both small and large businesses are expected to be the key markets for wireless data service. In-Stat estimates that there will be nearly 9 million enterprise users in 2003 out of what will then be nearly 25 million wireless data users. And according to In-Stat, nearly half of all business professionals would access the Internet wirelessly several times a day if price and service were not an obstacle. For definitions of wireless terms, see TechRepublic’s Jargon Watch .
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This study shows the percentage of respondents who want these advanced features in upcoming wireless services. The “other” category includes caller ID, voice mail, text-to-voice, and wireless VPN.