"Sweden's Ericsson group said on Monday its new Malaysian plant would be a regional hub to cater to the expanding global market for mobile phones.
"Ericsson president Kurt Hellstrom said the rapid growth in the worldwide market would see the number of units produced in 2000 surge to about 420 million from 1999's 270 million.
``The Malaysian factory is critical as it serves the whole region and is expanding very swiftly,'' he said at the launching of the plant on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
"Ericsson has invested close to 250 million ringgit ($65.8 million) to set up the plant and will spend further 100 million this year to boost production capacity.
"The plant will be able to produce up to 10 percent of the Ericsson group's total worldwide output of some 63 million mobile phones forecast for this year.
``It will be able to produce between five million and seven million mobile phones per year with some 95 percent for export markets in the region,'' said Hellstrom.
"He expected mobile prices to continue dropping by about 15 percent per year as phone makers brace for intense wireless competition when more and more consumers demand for phones that can retrieve data and content from the Internet.
``Prices are coming down all the time, and this includes Ericsson's products and others, and we can expect to continue seeing a downward trend,'' he added.
"Ericsson has had talks with Malaysian companies and mobile operators to implement the Wireless Application Protocol or WAP, a global protocol that enables mobile users to enjoy Internet-based services.