Nokia Introduces Phones and Content Targeted at Rural Users

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Nokia will offer information services on mobile phones targeted at users in rural or emerging markets.

Nokia Life Tools will be rolled out in select countries in Asia and Africa, starting with India in the first half of next year, Nokia said on Tuesday.

The company also launched seven new phones, including the Nokia 1202 which it described as its lowest cost handset. Priced at 25 euro (US$32), the 1202 is a designed specifically for people in rural areas, and includes features like a flashlight, extended battery life, loud ring tones and address books for up to five users. The phone, which has a monochrome display, will be available in India from this month, a spokeswoman for the company said.

Indian mobile service providers such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications are targeting rural areas in India as the next big opportunity, as urban markets are getting saturated. But offering locally relevant content in local languages is key to expansion among rural customers.

Cellular services revenue in India is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18 percent between this year and 2012 to cross US$37 billion, according to Gartner. The growth will come from a rapidly proliferating rural market, low handset costs, and lower tariffs, the market research firm said in July.

The Life Tools package includes educational resources and agriculture information. It uses SMS (short message service) to deliver information, and can work even in areas where GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) coverage is not available, Nokia said.

Nokia plans to conduct a limited scale pilot of Nokia Life Tools in the Maharashtra state of India before the end of this year. It is working on the pilot with Idea Cellular, a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) service provider.

Reuters Market Light (RML) data is part of the pilot, providing farmers with information on weather, prices and availability of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and prevailing market prices for produce. The information is customized to the farmer's location and selection of crops, and will be delivered directly to his Nokia mobile phone, Nokia said.

The company will also be testing delivery of education resources during the pilot, though it has not finalized a partner for these services, the spokeswoman said.

The pilot will be run using the Nokia 2600 classic and the Nokia 1680 phones, and services will be available in Marathi, Hindi and English. These are languages that are relevant in Maharashtra state, the spokeswoman said. Extending the service to other states in other Indian languages will be easy as Nokia phones already support nine Indian languages, she added.

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