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Nokia speeds up cell phone GPS

SIM card and new software that catches satellite signals--bypassing operator networks--cuts start-up time from three minutes to one minute.
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Written by Reuters on
Nokia launched on Thursday a service that it said will cut the time a GPS-enabled cell phone takes to pinpoint its whereabouts, opening new opportunities for location-based online services.

Nokia hopes the service, available for people who own its flagship N95 smart phones, will cut the start-up time to one minute, from up to three minutes currently. The slowness has so far hampered interest in cell phone navigation.

"It will be reliably under one minute in most countries," said Ralph Eric Kunz, head of Nokia's navigation and mapping operations.

Handset makers see GPS (Global Positioning System) as one of the next big "value-adds."

Analysis firm Berg Insight has forecast annual shipments of handset-based personal navigation devices in Europe and the United States to reach 12 million units by 2009, compared with 1 million in 2005.

While most assisted-GPS technologies use mobile carriers cell sites to find locations faster, Nokia's new service bypasses operator networks, using data from a SIM card and new software that helps the phone to catch satellite signals.

GPS chips use satellites orbiting the earth to determine the exact position of a person. They are found in car navigation systems, which have surged in popularity in recent years, and the technology is now making the jump to mobile phones.

Nokia's N95, with a $967 (700 euro) price tag, is not within reach of the wider market, but the Finnish company aims to bring GPS chips to a wide array of its phones. All of Nokia's GPS-enabled phones will have the new service, Kunz said.

Nokia bought into the navigation industry last year through its acquisition of German firm Gate5 and started to offer free maps and routing data in February, while charging extra fees for navigation.

While a few years ago personal navigation device makers like TomTom shrugged off possible rivalry from the handset industry, they have now acknowledged the potential risk to their business.

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