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Nokia to woo new markets with slim gear

The cell phone maker says its 3.3-ounce handset will offer voice and messaging at an affordable price in markets in India, Russia and China.

Nokia on Wednesday announced a lightweight Global System for Mobile communication phone it plans to aim at markets in India, China and Russia.

The GSM phone weighs 93 grams, or a little over 3.3 ounces, and has antislip sides for a better grip, which reduces the risk of damage from dust and rain.

Nokia said the phone offers voice and messaging at an affordable price for fast-growing markets and emerging markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. It is expected to be available during the fourth quarter of 2003. The company did not say how much it would cost.

About 186 million new cell phone subscribers will sign up every year between now and 2007, bringing the global total to 2 billion, research firm In-Stat/MDR predicted in a recent study.

Though China is still tops worldwide in overall subscriber growth, Southeast Asia and virtually untapped countries in Africa and the Middle East will lead the growth charge over the next few years, the study said.

Nokia thinks that there is a market of 600 million low-spending potential subscribers to be tapped.

"We believe that with the right business model for the new growth segment, together with terminals, network equipment and services, there is a true opportunity for profitable business for mobile operators," Jorma Hakkinen, Nokia's vice president of Mobile Entry Solutions said in a release.

The Finnish cell phone maker also announced preconfigured base station products and a new network-planning concept for service providers that's designed to help operators maximize the number of subscribers per site and minimize the number of sites required.

Using standard site products, service providers will be able to speed up implementation and reduce the need for site visits. Remote network maintenance and centralized network management save operational costs.

Nokia said these savings will help cell phone companies in countries that have low revenues, allowing them to offer handsets and services that are tailored for entry-level mobile phone customers. Their businesses can be profitable even at a $5 monthly average revenue per user, the company said.