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Tech giants upbeat at mobile show

By Paula Hancocks

The number of phones able to use Wi-Fi is expected to increase this year.
The number of phones able to use Wi-Fi is expected to increase this year.

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Global System for Mobile communications (GSM)
Telecommunications Equipment
Technology (general)

CANNES, France (CNN) -- More than one billion people are now using Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) phones, almost one in six of the world's population. Not bad for a technology launched 12 years ago.

This historic milestone is a central theme at the annual gathering of the mobile world at the 3GSM conference in Cannes, France.

At this year's conference, there is one notable difference, however -- the mood is more upbeat than in previous years.

"The major telcos have started to sort out their debt issues and the wireless operators are starting to understand about segmenting their customer base into the business and consumer segments, and starting to understand what each of those really means," said Chris Lewis, of The Yankee Group Europe.

The long-awaited third-generation (3G) technology will be put to the test in Europe this year, four years after operators paid more than $120 billion for the new mobile licenses.

So-called Wi-Fi technology -- which allows wireless connections to the Internet -- is also on the rise, with Nokia launching new handsets capable of surfing the Web using short-range wireless technology.

"The businessman in airports, in offices, in conference centers like Cannes can have the best possible technology for their data transfers," said Jorma Ollila, Nokia's CEO. "And this obviously is what business users really want."

Gartner Group research predicts the number of worldwide Wi-Fi users will triple this year.

And experts say the idea of technology convergence -- having one device for all technologies -- is finally near.

"You're going to have all these different connection technologies, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G ... all starting to come into one single device, and start to auto-select, which is the best connection for you as customer or as a business user," said Mike Altendorf, of Conchango, an information technology consultancy.

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