Cellcom and Iway launch Internet system for cars

TEL AVIV Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:18am EST

1 of 2. A woman looks at a Comodo Console during a launch event in Tel Aviv January 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Nir Elias

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TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Start-up Iway Mobile and Cellcom, Israel's largest mobile phone operator, launched on Sunday a communications, Internet and entertainment system for the automobile.

While the Comodo Console will be sold first in February in Israel, where it will be marketed exclusively by Cellcom, Iway is in talks to sell the product to cellular operators in other countries over the next six months.

Iway founder and Chief Executive Danny Knafou said the first countries would likely be France, Russia and China.

"We are in talks with SFR, China Mobile and MTS," Knafou told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference.

The operating system is programed for 20 languages, including Russian, Arabic and Chinese, and more will be added.

Comodo includes a 4.3 inch touchscreen, speakerphone, a rear camera to increase security when in reverse, a GPS antenna and a cellular modem for an always-on connection to the Internet via a 3G cellular network. The driver can listen to radio stations from around the globe.

"There is one world that hasn't yet been captured by the Internet revolution, and that is the automobile," said Adi Cohen, head of marketing at Cellcom.

While mobile handset makers are focused on developing phones that are faster, smaller and better designed, Iway said it concentrated on giving the driver a different experience.

To ensure drivers' safety, videos can be watched only when the car is not moving, and emails can be received but not sent. Text messaging and chatting services are not available, and the 80 applications can be activated with two clicks.

Knafou said he did not know of any other similar product.

The three-dimensional navigation system warns drivers when approaching a dangerous road or intersection and can alert when the driver is exceeding the speed limit or to problems up ahead, such as camels on the road.

Iway, which is based in the southern city of Beersheba, far from Israel's high-tech center, invested millions of dollars in private funds to develop the product.

Knafou said the firm's next fund raising would be an initial public offering in Tel Aviv during 2011.

When asked whether Cellcom might invest in Iway, Cellcom CEO Amos Shapira said: "Until today it has not been Cellcom's strategy to make financial investments."

The console sold by Cellcom will cost 109 shekels ($23.5) a month for 36 months, and the service package without the music costs 20 shekels a month and another 14.9 shekels for the music.

The design and development of the console was done in Israel, while the assemblage is carried out in China and Taiwan.

(Editing by Will Waterman)

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