Ericsson - the world's top mobile network maker - expects operators to launch ultra-fast HSDPA mobile networks at the end of the year with a mass market in 2006.
HSDPA, which stands for High-Speed Downlink Packet Access, will offer download speeds several times higher than current 3G networks, cutting downloading times on mobile devices from minutes to seconds.
"We foresee a mass market with HSDPA implemented in 2006," said Mikael Back, vicepresident of Ericsson 3G networks business.
"Initially it will be mainly laptop users enjoying the mobile broadband through cards inserted into their personal computers," he said.
"The 3G networks will be upgraded in the second half of 2005. Initial HSDPA terminals, PC cards, supporting up to 3.6 Mbps, will be available at the same time," Mr Back said. "In early 2006, HSDPA will most likely be introduced in smartphones."
Mr Back believes that most operators who have already invested in a WCDMA 3G network, would also eventually upgrade to HSDPA, which worked like a turbo charger on the regular 3G network.
The maximum transmission speed for HSDPA is 14 Mbps, with Ericsson trials showing nine to 11 Mbps. Such wireless speeds, now unmatched by most PCs connected to a fixed broadband network, would allow operators to offer live TV streaming to customers and encourage the use of data services on mobiles, now still tiny compared to voice, Mr Back said.
More data services in the network will drive demand for more capacity in the networks, analysts said, helping increase equipment makers' sales this year, when market growth is seen slowing to a few percent from double digit growth in 2004.
Ericsson chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg said the the company saw its operating margin sustainable in the "high teens" in the longer term, down 24 per cent in the fourth quarter, but also repeated the firm was "not planning for a decline".
Ericsson's chief technology officer, Hakan Eriksson, also said that mobile subscribers would be easily drawn to the mobile TV service on HSDPA networks.
"Everybody knows how to handle a TV remote control, and switch channels. This will be like watching TV on the remote," he said, suggesting operators should charge flat monthly fees for HSDPA subscriptions to drive usage. But some analysts were sceptical as to whether subscribers would want to "watch TV on a remote".
"It's still a long way," said Tim Boddy, analyst at Goldman Sachs. "This will all drive traffic growth, which is a nirvana for Ericsson," he said.
Rival telecoms equipment maker Nokia is also upbeat about the future of HSDPA and competitor has Siemens launched an HSDPA card for laptops.
Sony Ericsson said it would try out first HSDPA products this year and start making them commercially in 2006.