logo Nokia’s navigation subsidiary Navteq has added 44 Indian cities to its maps, enabling street-level details, turn-by-turn navigation and directions for users. It now covers a total of 84 Indian cities with 1.4 million points of interest such as ATMs, hospitals, petrol pumps etc which can be found using the local search.

But when we visited the company’s site which hosts Navteq Beta, the new version of map, only western and southern India seem to have been covered; Himachal Pradesh, UP and Eastern India have not yet been mapped. A search for roads and points of interest in these regions gave no results. This is surprising because Navteq powers Microsoft’s Maps which cover 29 cities including Kolkata, Kanpur, Bhubhaneshwar and other mid-India and eastern cities which are not seen covered in the Navteq maps.

Nokia’s President and CEO Olli Pekki- Kallasuvo announced at the recently held Nokia World 2009 in Stuttgart that Social Location or location-aware presence, as it is called more generically, would be key for the company this year. The company has tied up with Facebook to launch Lifecasting, a widget for N97 and N97 Mini handsets to publish the user’s location on Facebook and will build more social networking features around it.

New Global Production Centre; Low Cost Navigation?

Navteq has set up a global production centre in Mumbai that will be the largest worldwide for the company, Reuters reported. Employees will primarily be geo-coders, who will convert street addresses and locations into latitudes and longitudes which can be then entered into a GPS device and maps. Navteq currently has some 1000 geographic analysts around the world, who drive the roads, verify and update the maps.

The company believes this is also a market for low cost, high quality navigation solutions. Rajat Tandon, director, India sales has said that growth in sales of smart phones and GPS devices will create a spurt in demand for low cost navigation. Qualcomm and telco Tata Indicom expected the same when they launched QuickFinder range of mobile phones which use Assisted GPS. GPS devices have been around in India for years but the cost has been a barrier to adoption. A Garmin Nuvi powered by MapmyIndia costs Rs. 7000. With mobiles, navigation stands a chance but unless bundled with a cheaper GPRS package, we doubt it will find takers. In our view, navigation services and maps should be made free, not just low cost – mobile operators and map providers can monetise the service by engaging brands and integrating mobile vouchers with the maps for location-based services.

New Navteq Map; No Traffic Updates

The map adds viewing angle option, allowing you to play around with the map by tilting it and turning it around and when you move from one city to another, there’s a smooth, relaxed sail over the map – no blanks or unsightly error messages while the map reconfigures to a new location. The flight mode also swerves the map around in the flight mode as it shows the turn by turn directions.

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However, the lack of traffic updates is a disappointment. Navteq has been in India for a year now, Nokia Maps for longer. It offers traffic updates for USA and Europe, infact Navteq owns the Traffic.com domain name.

Traffic Info Websites

In India, a startup called TheTrafficPeople offers traffic updates online for Delhi. BTIS was launched in Bangalore by the government, in association with the startup Mapunity, mobile application developer TeliBrahma and Airtel. More on how it works on Business Line. Now it has expanded to cover Hyderabad too. Other websites offer driving directions are  Yahoo India, Google Maps, SatNav,  MapMyIndia, RouteGuru etc, but they remain focused on local search, routes, driving directions and points of interest. Travel site Oktatabyebye, which has been in the news for the lawsuit slapped on it by Tata Group, also offers driving directions.

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