Nokia Returns to Korean Handset Market

Nokia will re-enter the Korean handset market after a six-year absence to sell 3G devices.

But analysts are not convinced the company will have any more success than it did during its earlier foray into the market, which is dominated by local vendors.

"The time is now right for Nokia to enter the Korea market," said Colin Giles, a Nokia regional VP. "Our goal is to start slowly with a couple of devices in the first year and build our presence and product portfolio overtime, learning from the market as we go."

Giles said the handsets sold in Korea are likely to have been manufactured locally. Nokia's South Korean manufacturing operation has produced nearly 400 million mobile devices so far, and contributes $2 billion in exports to the Korean economy every year, he said.

Nokia exited Korea in 2003, unable to gain traction against Samsung and LG in the mostly CDMA market. Nokia was also kept from re-entering the market by the Korean government's insistence that all handsets sold in Korea support the local WIPI standard.

But that requirement was repealed late last year, and Nokia hopes it can find success with W-CDMA devices.

But analysts from Strategy Analytics and Tongyang Securities told the Korea Times that Nokia will likely remain a niche player in Korea, and may be forced out of the market once again.

The first handset Nokia will release will be the 6210s, Nokia said. Based on Symbian S60, the device features an MP3 player, video playback and stereo FM radio. It will sell for 396,000 won ($300).

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