One billion people worldwide are due to be using a mobile telephone in 10 years' time and as many as 500 million by the year 2000. And some observers claim these forecasts could be a serious under-estimation of what the future holds in store for the rapidly-expanding world market. According to IDATE, the European audiovisual and telecommunications networks institute, there will be 270 million mobile telephone users worldwide by the end of this year. International sales more than doubled last year with 80 million units (43 million in 1997).

In most developed countries, most new subscribers are opting for a mobile telephone and the system allows developing countries to leapfrog the wired network stage, which is expensive to build up, particularly in areas where the population is widely dispersed. The satellite system may be expensive (in France, for instance, it costs FF 25,000 (Euro 3,810) for the telephone, FF 12 to 42 (Euro 1.83 to 6.4) a minute with the Iridium network launched in November) but it does make it possible for a mobile telephone to be used, even in the very remotest regions. There is still a huge potential on the markets in China, India, and Latin America and foreign companies have only just started to make inroads there. With 20 million mobile telephone subscribers, China is the world's third biggest market, behind the United States (64 million) and Japan (40 millions). And yet, less than 2% of Chinese people have a mobile telephone, compared with 10% for a stationary telephone. Pacific Asia will account for 39% of the world market in 2002, and the rest of the world (particularly...

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