Handset vendors and operators stalk satnav firms

Following the success of the free satnav services on offer from Nokia and Google, insiders claim that some of the leading handset manufacturers and mobile operators are looking to acquire the remaining satnav software developers.

Indications that the satnav industry has been under pressure was seen last month with the collapse of the Netherlands-based Nav4All as it became the first major victim of free handset navigation since it could not change map supplier from Nokia's Navteq to TomTom's Tele Atlas.

Also, the CEO of Telmap, Oren Nissim, has stated that he is absolutely sure that there would be more consolidation in the sector, and admitted that Telmap had been in "strategic discussions" with unnamed companies.

While Samsung , RIM and Microsoft have been positioned as potential satnav purchasers, operators are also said to be keen to enter the satnav field. Vodafone indicated its intent when it acquired Sweden's Wayfinder for US$30 million in 2008, after Wayfinder first acquired Finland's Navicore.

"There will be a lot of talk whether operators should follow Vodafone and look to acquire," said Tim Shepherd of industry consultancy Canalys. "We will see some bargains in this [satnav] space. Companies will be for sale for fairly small amounts of money."

Recently, the research firm Gartner stated that, if others follow the example of Nokia and Google, it would slash up to US$5 billion off the US$25 billion consumer navigation market.

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