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Next-Generation Mobile Phones

Nokia and others are starting to turn out phones that switch easily between various technologies -- Pretty soon, the mobile gizmo you cart around in your pocket may spend as much time chatting over the air as you do. But instead of closing a sale, checking in with Mom, or trading gossip with a friend, your phone will be jumping from one network to another, tirelessly seeking the right wireless access at the best price in every location.

One minute, the phone might be connected to a conventional cellular operator. Moments later, as you pass within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, it could switch automatically to a faster and cheaper connection to download a batch of e-mails. While you stroll around the mall, it might pick up promotions and coupons from stores via free short-range Bluetooth radio. Then, while you sleep at night, it could receive the day's sports highlights via digital TV broadcasting for you to watch the next morning on the train.

Sounds like science fiction, but a world where many different types of wireless networks coexist and compete for traffic is just around the corner. And nobody is pushing harder to make it happen than Finnish giant Nokia Corp., maker of nearly one-third of the world's mobile handsets. The company whose very name is synonymous with cellular is racing into every imaginable type of wireless technology. Says Antti Vasara, vice-president for corporate strategy: "The world is not just cellular any more. There are lots of other ways to make bits fly."

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