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By Tarmo Virki
HELSINKI, July 19 (Reuters) - Nokia NOK1V.HE launched a service on Thursday which it said would cut the time a GPS-enabled cellphone takes to pinpoint its whereabouts, opening new opportunities for location-based online services.
Nokia hopes the service, available for users of its flagship N95 phones, will cut the startup time to one minute, from up to three minutes currently. The slowness has so far hampered takeup of cellphone navigation.
“It will be reliably under one minute in most countries,” Ralph Eric Kunz, head of Nokia’s navigation and mapping operations told Reuters in an interview.
Handset makers see GPS-based navigation as one of the next big value-adding offerings and even at this early stage.
Analysis firm Berg Insight has forecast annual shipments of handset-based personal navigation devices in Europe and the United States to reach 12 million units by 2009, compared with 1 million in 2005.
While most assisted-GPS technologies use mobile carriers cellsites to find locations faster, Nokia’s new service bypasses operator networks, using data from SIM card and new software which helps the phone to catch satellite signals. GPS chips use satellites orbiting the earth to determine the exact position of the user. They are found in car navigation systems, which have surged in popularity in recent years, and the technology is now making the jump to mobile phones.
Nokia’s N95, with a 700-euro price tag, is not within reach of the wider market, but the Finnish firm aims to bring GPS chips to a wide array of its phones. All Nokia’s GPS phones will have the new service, Kunz said.
Nokia hopes the service will boost prices of its phones in the longer term, and increase the appeal of mobile search services.
Nokia bought into the navigation industry last year through its acquisition of German firm Gate5 and started to offer free maps and routing data in February 2007, while charging extra fees for navigation.
While a few years ago personal navigation device makers like Dutch TomTom (TOM2.AS) shrugged off possible rivalry from the handset industry, they have now acknowledged the potential risk to their business.
((Reporting by Tarmo Virki; editing by Sue Thomas; Reuters messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; +358-9-680 50 235, email@example.com)) Keywords: NOKIA POSITIONING/
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