January 26, 2009 / 9:51 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Nokia to enter operator business in Japan

* Luxury unit Vertu to launch operator services

* Nokia Siemens Networks to host operator service

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HELSINKI, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Nokia’s NOK1V.HE Vertu unit, which sells gem-encrusted, hand-built mobile phones, is to offer mobile operator services in Japan and will be the first time the world’s top cellphone maker has launched an operator business.

Vertu said it would launch an exclusive ‘Club in Japan’ that will allow subscribers access to exclusive mobile services including ‘Club Vertu’, which includes a special members-only concierge.

“Meeting the needs of customers in this segment requires a specialised approach. Vertu users ... are willing to pay a premium for the right experience,” Tagore Ramoutar, Director of Business Development for Japan & Korea at Vertu, said in a statement.

Vertu, founded in 1998, sells mobile phones with prices ranging from 3,500 euros ($4,534) to over 100,000 euros.

Nokia Siemens Networks [NSN.UL] said on Monday it had won a deal to host the operator service for Vertu.

Nokia withdrew its usual phone lineup from Japanese market late last year as it was not able to win market share in the world’s fourth largest mobile phone market after the United States, China and India.

The quirks of Japan’s mobile phone market have prevented foreign companies, including Nokia’s rivals such as Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) and LG (003550.KS), from successfully targeting Japanese consumers.

Most of the mobile phones used in Japan are part of third-generation networks and boast features such as TV broadcasting and electronic payment functions. This makes it tough for foreign manufacturers to compete with domestic handsets. ($1=.7719 Euro) (Editing by Simon Jessop)

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