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Benefon History (Eng)

 

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Benefon is a mobile telecommunications company founded in 1988 and headquartered in Salo, Finland. Benefon specialises in the manufacture of mobile phones with inbuilt GPS navigation.

History

Benefon was founded in 1988. Product development and manufacturing of the first products was done by a few dozen pioneers. Benefon Forte NMT 450 was the very first mobile phone of the new company. The product itself tells a lot about the company philosophy; it was radical and innovative and actually the world’s first mobile phone to include an in-built answering machine. Benefon Forte had an extremely long lifetime remaining in production for the unparalleled 11 years. This is a record in the industry known for its short product life cycles!

After Benefon Forte the company introduced a range of wireless communication instruments to NMT- and GSM-systems in all over the world.

The mobile phone liberated the people to communicate regardless of time and place. However, the common question remains: “Where are you?” This question is integral to safety. You need to find your way and have others find you, when needed.

A new era in product innovation began for Benefon with the European Union’s MORE-project (MORE = Mobile Rescue Phone). The result of the project was a new, revolutionary concept: a mobile phone and GPS-navigator integrated in one portable product. The new product concept took shape in Benefon’s GSM+GPS products, of which Benefon Esc! was launched in late 1999 and Benefon Track in 2000. To precisely communicate your location and navigate to others were the cornerstones of the new Benefon product generation.

In 2004 Benefon was acquired by an international group of investors, Octagon Capital Ltd. Octagons’ input and expertise has led to the launch of TWIG, a new range of devices combining GPS navigation with GSM mobile technology.

Benefon is now at the forefront of innovation and research of integrating mobile telephony and GPS navigation. Benefon continues to develop innovative instruments promoting wireless communication and improving quality of life. The original pioneer spirit lives also among the wide Benefon partner network. We believe that by being innovative, resourceful and dedicated we can make a difference.

Timeline

1928 1928 Koskinen & Nordell radio factory (Later Salora) founded in Salo, Finland
1950’s Salora starts manufacturing TV’s
1960’s Salora starts manufacturing PMR “radio phones”
1970’s Salora rules in subscriber ARP radio phones and PMR
1979 Mobira founded to produce mobile phones, as Salora-Nokia JV
1980 1980 NMT cellular system started in Nordic countries, with international roaming
1980’s Mobira, later Nokia-Mobira, becomes one of the global leaders in mobile phones
1988 Nokia-Mobira president leaves with colleagues to found Benefon
1989 Nokia-Mobira renamed Nokia Mobile Phones (NMP)

Benefon Heritage Innovation

1989 First mobile with answering machine (BENEFON FORTE)
1990 First mobile with cordless handset (BENEFON CLASS)
1992 First mobile with several colour options (BENEFON SMART)
1993 First mobile with clock (BENEFON BETA)
1998 First GSM with predictive T9 text input (BENEFON IO)
1999 First GSM+GPS (BENEFON MORE, MOBILE RESCUE PHONE)
2000 First DB GSM with two SIM-card slots (BENEFON TWIN DS)
2000 First WAP + HTML phone (BENEFON Q)
2000 First GSM + GPS Professional Telematics Phone (BENEFON TRACK)
2000 GSM + GPS + MMS Personal Navigation Phone (BENEFON ESC!)

Benefon Company Facts

– Leader in innovative wireless communication instruments, renowned for their performance, professional quality and new Finnish design
– Headquartered in Salo, the wireless industry centre of Finland, Benefon has designed and manufactured wireless terminals for GSM and NMT systems since 1988
– GSM experience since 1998, with fast growth and innovative products, which supports mobile e-services and internet
– 12 years of experience in NMT systems

Products

In 1996 Benefon introduced the Alfa, Beta and Delta NMT-900 phones to the consumer market. However, by this stage, its former partner Nokia was already bringing to market GSM handsets such as the Nokia 1610. Benefon’s first GSM phone was the 1997 Benefon Gamma, and the company continued to release new GSM handsets.

Benefon then changed its focus to GSM+GPS mobile telematics equipment, in response to the European Union’s MORE-project (Mobile Rescue Phone). The result of this project was an idea that was somewhat radical for the time: a mobile phone and a GPS navigator integrated in one product. Along these lines, the Benefon Esc! was launched in late 1999 and Benefon Track in 2000.

The Esc! was splashproof and featured a large, monochrome LCD. It allowed for users to load maps onto the phone, to trace their position and movement, and even to call or send their coordinates via SMS to a list of set numbers by setting an “Emergency Key”. Interestingly, it also featured a “Friend Find” service, whereby users with Esc! handsets could track each other’s locations directly on their handset display. In some markets this feature was implemented online.

Innovations

Benefon has been responsible for several “firsts” in the mobile telecommunications market. Significantly, the Benefon iO was the first GSM phone with T9 predictive text input.

The Benefon Forte was the first mobile phone with an answering machine. The Benefon Beta was the first mobile to feature a clock. The Benefon Class was the first mobile phone with a cordless handset. The Benefon Esc!, as mentioned, was the first GSM/GPS navigating phone. The Benefon Smart was the first phone that came with different colour options. And the Benefon Twin, which was the first dual-band GSM phone with two SIM-card slots, allowed for easier use of two network operators.

Future

In 2004, facing financial difficulties, Benefon entered bankruptcy protection and launched a re-organisation program. Benefon’s efforts to create a niche market in GPS telematics had met with some success (especially in commercial security markets) but had not been enough for the company to remain viable.

Benefon entered a financial partnership with Octagon Holdings LLC and other investors, involving tens of millions of euros of new investment. On June 21, 2005, Benefon CEO Tomi Raita announced that Benefon was out of bankruptcy protection, and that its re-organisation had successfully concluded.

Benefon started work on a new product line, and has since launched several new products under the “Twig” brand. The Twig Discovery is a turn-by-turn GPS navigator combined with a GSM phone. It retains many features of the Benefon Esc!, including the “Friend Find” service and the Emergency Key.

The Twig Discovery Pro is similar to the Discovery but is aimed at commercial markets where workers may be at risk, and in addition to an Emergency Key, it allows workers and vehicles to be tracked online.

The Twig Locator is a small, shock-proof personal/commercial security device. It is capable of sending its location, bearing and speed and of sending back one-way audio. It can be hidden in a vehicle, and using its “geo-fencing” function, an automatic alarm transmission is activated if the vehicle moves beyond predetermined boundaries set by the user.

These products are already on the market, or making their way to market across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia.

Benefon has recently announced several new handsets for 2007, all featuring GPS capability. They include the Twig Talisman, a touchscreen-equipped GPS handset running Windows Mobile 6; the Twig Totem, a 3G (HSPDA) enabled GPS business handset with a 3 megapixel camera; and the Twig Monolith, also a 3G-enabled GPS phone, featuring Wi-Fi for on-the-go Internet and network access.