Global sales of mobile handsets are forecast to reach 1.28 billion units in 2008, an 11 per cent increase on last year, according to analysts.

On Tuesday, crystal ball gazers at Gartner said that worldwide mobile phone sales in the first quarter reached 294.3 million, with second quarter expected to run to 300 million – 305 million units.

But while the market as a whole is poised for double digit growth, some regions are projected to experience a decline in sales this year. It’s well known that mobile phone sales growth will increasingly rely on emerging markets as more mature regions reach saturation.

In Asia Pacific, mobile phone sales are forecast to reach 472.5 million units in 2008, a 17.9 per cent increase from 2007. But things aren’t looking so good for Western Europe, where unit sales are projected to decline 1.5 per cent on last year to 188 million. The maturity of the market will be more pronounced in Japan, which is set to experience a 9.1 per cent drop to 47.7 million units. In North America however, one of the less saturated mature markets, mobile phone sales are expected to total 185.7 million, a 5.3 per cent increase from 2007.

“For the second half of the year, we expect sales in the third quarter to be more than the second quarter results, but only moderately as both Motorola and LG issued warnings for a sequential drop in sales, as well as an economic environment that remains challenging,” said Carolina Milanesi, research director for mobile devices at Gartner. “All the hopes for mobile phone manufacturers for the overall year-end growth results rest on the final quarter of the year when most new products will be introduced to the market and the normal seasonality will help boost sales.”