Nokia chose Delhi, India, for Thursday's launch of seven mobile phones for emerging markets, including two intended for shared use by families or entire villages.
The launch of these GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones in India comes in the wake of attempts by the Indian government and mobile services operators in the country to introduce low-cost mobile telephony to India's rural masses.
Like the traditional public call office, the shared mobile phone offered through a local village entrepreneur is seen by many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as the best way to increase mobile penetration in rural markets, where users may not be able to afford a personal phone. In many villages, local entrepreneurs have already emerged to offer this service.
Nokia's 1200 and 1208 models offer call-time tracking and multiple phonebooks, the company said. To help manage airtime costs, the call-time tracking feature allows consumers and village phone entrepreneurs to preset a time or cost limit on individual calls, automatically ending the call after the limit has been reached, it said.
India had 166 million mobile subscribers at the end of March, up 68 percent over a year earlier, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Most of these subscribers are in urban areas. Large mobile service providers have identified the rural market as the next big opportunity. The government is also subsidizing roll-outs of mobile services in rural markets, and has proposed that operators share infrastructure to reduce costs.
A number of multinational mobile phone vendors, including Nokia, have started manufacturing phones in India. Nokia also has other operations in the country including a research and development center and a network operations center.
The Nokia 1200, with a monochrome screen, will be available this quarter with an estimated retail price of about $48 before subsidies or taxes. The Nokia 1208, with a color VGA-resolution screen, will be available in the third quarter of this year with an estimated retail price of $65, Nokia said.
Nokia also launched four other low-cost GSM phones, including the entry-level Nokia 1650 and Nokia 2660, and the Nokia 2630 and 2760 with features such as a built-in camera, an e-mail client, an FM radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Nokia 1650 and 2660 will be available this quarter, with the 1650 priced at about $75, and the 2660 at about $115. The Nokia 2630 and Nokia 2760 will be available in the third quarter of this year. The estimated price for the Nokia 2630 will be around $115 and for the Nokia 2760 around $122.
The company also launched Nokia 2505, an entry-level phone based on the CDMA (code division multiple access) standard for markets in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, China, and Latin America. The phone will be available in select markets in this quarter. Nokia did not disclose the pricing of this product.