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New Mobile "Smartphones" at Europe's Biggest Tech Show

The world's largest global information and communication exhibition, CeBIT, begins in Hanover this week, inviting companies and visitors to take a glimpse at the future.

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New mobile phone models will be able to send video messages and check e-mail.

The multimedia messaging "smartphones" that stole the show last year at the CeBIT are likely to make a big splash again when Europe's largest tech fair opens its doors in Hanover on Wednesday.

The CeBIT convention, which runs from March 12-19, will attract thousands of exhibitors and visitors from all over the world to the biggest showcase of the year for new gadgets and systems. Major firms like German giant Siemens are getting ready to pepper the market with new models of the "next generation" mobile phones, capable of sending e-mails and video messages.

The newer models are being coupled with rebate plans in an effort to make the new gadgets more enticing to until-now wary consumers. German mobile service provider T-Mobile wants to introduce a new rate plan by April 1 that makes it cheaper to send data, be it a video message or checking e-mail, over a mobile phone.

"We are seeing encouraging signals that people are using their phones for more than just calling," Nikesh Arora, T-Mobile vice president of marketing, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Sunday.

Other providers will most likely follow T-Mobile's lead, making the new technology affordable before the next generation networks needed to take advantage of the new technology are up and running this autumn.

Advances in wireless technology also on display

Other areas of innovation on show will be the latest in Internet networking with advances in broadband wireless technology bound to attract interest from those business and private customers who are searching for faster connections.

It's not all work at CeBIT. Games companies will be presenting the most up-to-date computer and online entertainment systems and providing vistors the opportunity to get to grips with the latest in electronic fun.

As well as showing the latest in technological advances, the CeBIT is host to a range of discussions and seminars, the most high profile being the The ICT World Forum.

More than 500 of the world’s information and communication technology (ICT) leaders have been invited to CeBIT and will join together to explore the pressing issues of the world marketplace. More than 1,000 additional invited guests and press will be present, making the forum among the most exclusive collection of ICT leadership assembled.

Whether general attendance will improve over last year remains to be seen. The 2002 show, with 674,000 participants, was among the lowest turnouts in CeBIT history.

One number is already firm: The number of exhibitors is down, continuing a decline that began following the convention's record year in 2001. Last year 7,962 information and communication manufacturers from 59 countries showed up. This year, only 6,526 companies are registered to showcase their wares.

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