Nokia to offer Life Tools for rural mobile users

Following successful trial in India, Nokia plans to roll the services out more widely

Nokia plans to roll out its Life Tools group of services to more emerging markets following a successful pilot program in India, a company executive said Monday.

Nokia is now formulating plans to roll out Life Tools, which includes agricultural and educational services for rural mobile users, in other emerging markets following the "great success" of a trial conducted in India, said Mary McDowell, executive vice president and chief development officer at Nokia, speaking at a company event in Singapore ahead of the CommunicAsia conference and exhibition, which opens on June 16.

Nokia sees emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere as an important source of growth as the number of mobile subscribers increases and many come to rely on their handsets for Internet access.

Life Tools includes a range of services aimed at rural mobile users in emerging markets, where agriculture remains a mainstay of local economies.

Agriculture-related offerings on Life Tools include local weather forecasts, information on crop prices at local markets, advice on growing crops, as well as pricing information for pesticides, seeds and fertilizer. Educational services include English lessons and advice on taking exams, while sports scores and music are available for entertainment.

Nokia conducted a limited trial of Life Tools in India at the end of 2008, and announced the nationwide availability of the program in April. While McDowell did not offer a timeframe for rolling out Life Tools in other countries, Nokia has previously said it wants to make Life Tools available in other Asian and African countries before the end of 2009.

On the hardware side, Nokia plans to roll out a low-cost 3G phone designed for emerging markets during the third quarter. The Nokia 2730 Classic supports WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) networks and will cost around EUR80 (US$112), making it one of Nokia's cheapest 3G handsets, McDowell said.

Pricing for Life Tools was not disclosed. During the trial offered in India, access to Life Tools' agriculture services cost 60 Indian rupees (US$1.20) per month, while services such as English lessons cost 30 rupees each.

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