Datamonitor has predicted that the swelling global online population will hit 250 million users by 2002, jumping to 300 million three years later as free ISPs thrust the ballooning internet industry onward.
The report, entitled The Future of the Internet, revealed all areas of the market to be thriving. The figures are due to leap again for 1999 as the free ISP market becomes more aggressive.
Free ISP X-Stream has already upped the ante by offering free internet access calls to its members for the evening of 8 March, establishing itself as the first ISP to offer zero cost internet access.
The growth is also increasing the value of the internet's infrastructure.
The internet backbone market was worth more than $8 billion globally in 1998 and is expected to climb to $19 billion by 2002, according to the Datamonitor research.
The result of such rapid growth is that the cost of moving information will plummet. The price of transferring a terabyte of data across a public network will fall from the 1998 figure of $80,000 to $300 by 2003.
Andrew Ponsford, analyst at Datamonitor, said: 'Falling prices will in turn drive internet traffic volumes and service uptake. This trend is also good for businesses seeking to move towards internet business models, as plunging backbone costs and increasing capacity will drive cheaper, more sophisticated services.'
The UK is particularly Web-friendly, with NOP research revealing that 10,000 additional users were logging on to the internet every day. This rapid growth helped push the total number of UK Web users to 10.6 million, an increase of 48 per cent from 1997.
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