New roads for Nokia’s Navteq

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When you think of GPS and satellite navigation, you may think of market leaders such as TomTom and Garmin, and not the digital mapping companies that do the ‘back-office’ job.

Along with TeleAtlas (which was purchased by TomTom last year) Navteq is one of the leaders in this field. The Chicago-based company was founded 24 years ago. Yet it’s only now that it’s starting to believe that mobile navigation services are beginning to play a real role.

Philips acquired Navteq in the early 1990s and invested almost $600 million to build the mapping database for car-based navigation devices. In 2004, the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange, before Nokia took it over in October, 2007 for US$8.1 billion.

Under Philips’ early ownership, the SatNav market simply hadn’t taken off for its products to be viable. This changed in 1994, when it teamed up with BMW to provide the first in-car satellite navigation unit using Navteq map data.

Navteq vice president and general manager of its consumer and wireless Europe business Serge Bussat (pictured) says the partnership with BMW was the catalyst it needed.

“BMW had the vision and we worked extremely closely with it, and still do. The whole consumer SatNav market started with the automotive and in-dash navigation system sector.”

Six years ago Navteq moved into the market for PNDs (Personal Navigation Devices) which has since proved to be one of the fastest-growing consumer electronics markets ever.

The decision to acquire Navteq was part of Nokia’s strategy to be a major internet services provider.

“The only fundamental change to Navteq since the Nokia acquisition is that (Navteq chief executive) Judson Green reports to his opposite number at Nokia, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. Also, the board of Navteq is partially made up of Nokia executives,” says Bussat.

“There are no differences to the way we manage the Nokia account now compared to three years ago.”

The Nokia association is however helping Navteq to develop at a faster rate in the mapping sector, helping it to attract other partners.

“Being part of Nokia gives us a clear commitment to delivering what is required to make the (mobile phone navigation) market successful. It’s probably one of the reasons why handset manufacturers and operators are keen on working with us,” says Bussat

Vodafone’s Telmap SatNav application now uses Navteq’s maps and Navteq also provides maps for Orange.

On the handset front, Navteq now works with Sony Ericsson, LG and HTC to provide their handsets with mapping services. It recently announced a deal with Samsung to supply Navteq map data and content on its handsets also.

This agreement gives Samsung the rights to utilise Navteq value-added content including Visual Content, Speed Limits, Extended Lanes and Navteq’s Discover Cities. The first Samsung to offer these features was the I8910 HD, launched in May.

As more mobile phone manufacturers embrace GPS, Navteq is having to cover a lot more ground, literally. It now has around 4,000 employees working out of 196 offices in 39 countries. Overall, it has digitally mapped 77 countries.

But Bussat says this isn’t enough coverage. Manufacturers want Navteq to map up to 200 countries in which they are operating. In the meantime, its more immediate focus is moving into the emerging markets. India is top of its agenda.

Full article in Mobile News issue 445 (August 10, 2009).

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