Nokia plans to launch its Life Tools service commercially across India in the first half of this year, offering agriculture information, education, and other services to users in small towns and rural areas.
The company’s commercial launch of Life Tools in India follows a pilot project from December last year in the Indian state of Maharashtra, working with Idea Cellular, a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) service provider.
Nokia will host the service, and will get content for it from a variety of information sources, said Jawahar Kanjilal, the company’s global head of emerging markets services.
The company is looking at the Life Tools service as a separate revenue opportunity, though it also expects the service to help drive sales of its phones, he said.
The service will be initially offered on two models of Nokia phones, the Nokia 2320 and Nokia 2323, and will be extended to more devices, Nokia said on Wednesday. Both the 2320 and 2323 are low-cost phones that are scheduled to ship in the second quarter of this year.
As demand in urban markets reaches a plateau, Indian mobile service providers are targeting India’s rural markets because other forms of communication are very poor in these markets.
Small scale producers, who make up the vast majority of Indian farmers, are often unable to access information that could increase yields and lead to better prices for their crops, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said last month in a report on measures for accelerating rural telephony.
The increasing penetration of mobile networks and handsets in the country presents an opportunity to make information more widely available, and could help agricultural markets operate more efficiently, TRAI said.
Out of 347 million mobile subscribers in India at the end of last year, 93 million were in rural areas, according to TRAI.
One of the components of the agriculture service of the Life Tools pilot was the availability of daily prices of agricultural produce. Getting prices on their mobile phones helps farmers reduce dependency on agents for this information, introducing more transparency, Kanjilal said.
The agriculture service will also provided advance information about weather, and crop advisory services including information about probable diseases, weather disruptions and tips for more successful harvests, Kanjilal said.
Nokia also offered other services during the pilot, including a program that enabled users to learn English, and a general knowledge service. It plans to add at commercial launch a service to help students prepare for examinations, Kanjilal said.
Nokia did not disclose the proposed pricing of the services. During the pilot phase the agriculture service was priced at 60 Indian rupees (around US$1.20) per month, while the services for English learning and general knowledge were priced at 30 rupees each, Kanjilal said.
In a separate announcement, Nokia announced Wednesday the availability of its gaming service N-Gage in the country.
It also invited Indian mobile and web application developers to create innovative consumer applications exclusively for the upcoming Nokia N97 device. The 100 best applications will be made available to consumers worldwide on the Nokia N97, and will also be available on Nokia’s Ovi Store digital storefront, the company said on Wednesday.