There were heightened expectations that 2008 will bring the internet on mobile phones to the mass market, after comments from Samsung, Nokia, Sony Ericsson and O2.
Samsung said it would release around four times as many HSDPA and Wi-Fi-enabled handsets this year compared with 2007. Other manufacturers are expected to triple or quadruple the number of handsets equipped for fast internet access and downloading this year.
Several operators have upgraded their networks from 3G to HSDPA, and the process is accelerating as four of the Big Five have paired up to form network-sharing alliances.
Networks also appear to be pulling back demanding that manufacturers remove Wi-Fi connectivity from phones through fear of customers using Wi-Fi instead of HSDPA to make calls and access the internet. More Wi-Fi in homes, offices and public spaces has increased consumer demand for Wi-Fi on handsets.
Flat-rate data bundles and the popularity of social networking sites have also increased demand for mobile internet use.
Samsung’s head of channel marketing, Susan Land, revealed that the manufacturer expects to release between 10 and 15 handsets with HSDPA and/or Wi-Fi this year. This compares to only four released last year – the F700, i600, U700 (pictured above) and G800.
Meanwhile Mike Short, VP and head of R&D at O2, said his company expects 2008 to be a ‘big year for data charges’, and that manufacturers would focus heavily on releasing handsets with HSDPA technology.
‘There will be more devices with better data capabilities,’ he said.
Both UK MDs for Nokia and Sony Ericsson have also said they will unveil a greater number of Wi-Fi and HSDPA-enabled handsets this year.
John Harber, Sony Ericsson UK chief, said: ‘It will be interesting to see consumers having that speed on their phones through HSDPA and Wi-Fi. It will make side-loading redundant, and open up the possibilities of downloading.’
Nokia’s Simon Ainslie said: ‘With HSDPA coverage and high speeds, as well as high flat-rate data bundles, there will be pressure on the likes of BT to upgrade their fixed-line network.’