Cebit organizers anticipate that half a million visitors will descend on Hanover, Germany later this month for the giant European tech trade-show.

New products in areas such as high-speed networking, voice-over-IP, storage and smart mobile phones are expected.

Jorg Schomborg, managing director of Cebit Worldwide said: "Even if many clouds are still in the sky, we see signs that the ICT worldwide markets are entering a new phase of recovery and development. Our message today is that we are out of the tunnel – or as they say in our industry, there's a light at the end of the fibre."

Cebit runs from March 18-24, occupies 26 halls and will host 6,300 vendors from 66 countries, Schomborg said. The opening speech will be given by Sony president Kunitake Ando and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

After several false starts, VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) is expected to assert itself at this year's show. Just this week, Nortel unveiled Wi-Fi handsets, access points and other gear that lets users make voice calls over IP networks.

Mobility will also be a major theme this year. Nokia, Samsung and other big phone makers are expected to show-off new smart phones with cameras and features that take advantage of high-speed GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks.

Wireless developments

Demand for wireless data services is driving the need for access points, handsets and notebooks that combine support for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS, EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) and Wi-Fi in a single product. "Several new technologies in this arena will be shown," an industry observer said.

Two upcoming wireless technologies, Ultrawideband (UWB) and WiMax, will also be pushed at the show, with prototypes on show from a handful of vendors.

UWB, which is expected to hit the market next year, could clear up the mess of wires in most homes by shuttling digital files between PCs, video cameras and other devices up to 30 feet apart and at data rates of up to 480Mbps. A battle over standards between Motorola and a group of vendors led by Intel may slow its development.

Small form-factor PCs that take advantage of smaller components will be on show, including consumer models that have personal video-recorders, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and high-end components for gaming.

"The small form-factor desktop is finally here," an analyst said. These desktop computers "are not so much new, but what you'll see are plentiful numbers of them."