Mobile communications giant Nokia will close the year with a bang as this month it completes the release of advanced, colour-display cellular phones geared for general packet radio service (GPRS) networks in Hong Kong, said a senior official. Timo Toikkanen, Nokia Hong Kong's general manager for mobile phones, said all the products launched by the company this year supported multimedia messaging services (MMS) that run on existing, Internet-ready GPRS systems. These products include the model 7650 (held by Mr Toikkanen in the picture) introduced last July, the 7210 launched in October, the 6100 and 6610 last month, the 3650 unveiled on Thursday, and the 3530 later this month. Mr Toikkanen said the latest models bolstered the company's position as the leading cellular gear brand in Hong Kong by offering 'a mobile phone of choice for consumers from different walks of life'. The company recently announced that the global mobile phone volume demand was developing in line with expectations of a 400-million total handset market for the industry, with Nokia gaining significant market share this fourth quarter. 'With our new products, Nokia also wants mobile subscribers in Hong Kong to enjoy the benefits of using widely available high-speed GPRS connections and to become more comfortable with data communications using their handsets,' Mr Toikkanen said. GPRS, built on global system for mobile communictations (GMS)-standard cellular networks, is commonly referred to as a transitional technology to higher-speed third-generation (3G) wireless communications systems. It promises connection speeds from 56 kilobits per second to 114Kbps and continuous connection to the Internet. Cellular networks with GPRS infrastructure can offer MMS, which is a more advanced form of popular text-based short messaging services (SMS). MMS enables personalised multimedia messages with content such as still pictures, audio, text and video. Recent estimates by analyst firm Forrester Research show that in 2007, MMS will account for 32 per cent of total mobile message revenues worldwide. Technology consultancy Ovum, meanwhile, predicted worldwide MMS-capable handset penetration would reach 50 per cent by the end of 2005. Nokia supplied essential hardware, software and services to Hong Kong-operator CSL, so that it could launch Asia's first MMS operation in April this year. Other GSM operators in Hong Kong have since offered MMS to their subscribers. Negotiations have been underway among these operators to interconnect their MMS operations, following a successful inter-operator SMS arrangement they forged late last year. Operator adoption of MMS has been rapid since the first launches in Hong Kong, Hungary, Norway and Germany earlier this year. To date, more than 70 MMS systems have been launched around the world. 'With our expanded product line, Nokia is well ahead of other handset-makers in supporting MMS and GPRS,' said Mr Toikkanen. Next year, the Finnish company expects to ship up to 100 million Internet-ready, MMS-enabled, colour handsets. For the first quarter next year, Nokia's new product releases will include the 7250, 8910i and 2100. Although the 3650 and 3530 models are being introduced this month, they are expected to become widely available early next year. Like its 7650 model, Nokia's 3650 phone features a built-in, high-quality camera and video player with an ergonomic keypad. It provides up to four hours of talk time, stand-by time of eight hours, and a one-hour charge time. The 3530 model, meanwhile, is targeted at a younger, wider consumer market segment because of its ability to download a wide range of applications from the network provider, ranging from interactive and graphical games to programmes that enhance use of the handset. These include personalisation features such as ringing tones, wallpapers, colour graphics, pictures, and operator logos. The 3530 has a talk time of 2 hours and 30 minutes to 4 hours and 30 minutes, as well as a standby time of up to 13 days. Nokia expects that mobile phone market growth next year will be driven by a combination of subscriber growth and a stabilising replacement cycle. It projects that the global mobile subscriber market will grow from more than 1.1 billion at the end of this year to about 1.5 billion in 2005, while the annual share of the replacement market will continue to grow from the present 50 per cent level. At present, slightly more than a quarter of global mobile subscribers upgrade their handsets annually, which leads to a replacement cycle of about 30 months. This cycle has lengthened over the last 18 months, but now appears to be stabilising to provide an important engine of growth for handset-makers in the next few years. According to research firm Gartner, worldwide mobile phone sales were up 7.8 per cent in the third quarter to 104.3 million units from the same period last year. 'This is only the second time that the third quarter has realised mobile terminal sales volume in excess of 100 million units,' said Bryan Prohm, senior analyst for mobile communications research at Gartner's Dataquest unit. He said Nokia further distanced itself from its competition in the third quarter, as its worldwide market share grew to 35.9 per cent. Nokia was able to break through the 50 per cent market share barrier in the Western European market, as well as in the larger Europe, Middle East and Africa regional markets.