There will be more wireless Internet subscribers than wired users by the end of 2002, according to International Data Corp (IDC).

Currently, more than 40 million US households are online. But, there are more than 75 million cellular/personal communications systems (PCS) subscribers, and over 40 million paging subscribers in the US, according to Iain Gillott, an analyst with US-based IDC.

By mid-2001, all digital cellular/PCS handsets shipped in the world will be WAP (wireless application protocol)-capable, so the number of people accessing the Internet from wireless devices could increase dramatically, he claims.

Telecommunications carriers may also choose to push customer services via wireless devices as a cost-cutting measure, according to Gillott. It costs from $1.50 to $2.50 for a carrier to print out a customer's bill and send it through the mail, he said. Sending notification to a customer through their wireless device can cut that cost by as much as a dollar, Gillott said.

The changing numbers will have a huge impact on information systems staff and Web masters, Gillott said. Companies will need to think about displaying the information on their site for wireless device users. WAP servers can determine whether a caller is using a PC or a wireless device and direct the traffic to the appropriate site, he said.

Though wireless Web users won't be in the majority for a few years, opportunity already abounds for those who have anticipated this shift, according to Gillott.

"Today, there are companies doing a nice little business saying 'you need to make your site mobile'," Gillott said.