Nokia seeking to connect next billion to the internet

- Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nokia seeking to connect next billion to the internet

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is striving to bring the next 1bn users online to be able to then leverage the ecosystem of applications that is expected, Nokia's chief executive, Stephen Elop, said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Elop said that 80% of the world's population is in range of cellular signal but only 20% are somehow connected to the internet.

"We think that collectively we can change that. We think we can connect 1bn more people to the internet," Elop said.

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Elop said that Nokia's strategy is three fold. Firstly it will focus on the new agreement with Microsoft to use the Windows mobile ecosystem on Nokia's smartphones. Secondly, Nokia promises developments in low-end mobile phones, and thirdly the company is investing in "future disruptions."

"With the help of operators and developers the world over, we can go beyond just voice and SMS connections on these mobile devices. We can connect people to applications that take advantage of the web," Elop said.

The executive said that every day Nokia ships more than 1mn series 30 and series 40 low-end phones. Nokia will continue to invest in that area, adding features such as touch type and dual SIM cards.

Dual-SIM functionality allows the use of two services without the need to carry two phones at the same time. For example, the same handset can be used for business and private use with separate numbers and bills; or for travel, with an additional SIM for the country visited. Using multiple SIM cards allows the user to take advantage of different pricing plans for calls and text messages to certain destinations as well as mobile data usage.

These phones have until recent years been largely eschewed by larger manufacturers, partly due to their close ties with mobile phone operators who would prefer that customers use one network exclusively. However, more recently manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung have started producing these phones, which will target customers mostly from developing countries.

The second investment is to expand services with developing markets in mind, such as the Nokia Money mobile wallet service. Nokia will also introduce more social networking access, such as instant messaging email for low-tier consumers.

"We take for granted many of these services today, but literally for billions of people that opportunity to impact society is just beginning," Elop said.

Nokia will introduce mapping services for the series 40 phones to leverage location-based services and integrate their applications stores.

The third area of investment will be to drive local developer ecosystems, introducing developer tools to reach that next billion, creating new engagement opportunities for operators focusing on local applications, "which are those that will make a difference right in someone's home or in their community."

Elop said that from traveling the world, he has noted that "the impact of mobile devices that you see in the remote regions of the world is remarkable. It is the impact on people and societies. People using mobile devices to effect those changes."

For example, mobile phones are used to report on fresh water resources in Kenya. Several billion people in rural Nigeria, China, India and Indonesia are seeking agricultural updates via SMS.

One billion people do not have a bank account, but by 2012 Elop expects that number to reduce dramatically as people will use SMS for those services.