A Nokia exhibition booth in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company aims to cash in on the expected rebound in Russia's handset prices in the second half of this year. Image Credit: Bloomberg News

Helsinki: Nokia, the world's biggest maker of mobile phones, plans to expand its own-brand stores in Russia over the next few years as part of its bid to hook consumers on services such as maps and music.

"We're targeting potentially 120 stores in two and a half years to have good coverage of cities with 50,000 citizens and more," Victor Saeijs, head of Eurasian sales for the Espoo, Finland-based company, said in an interview.

The number would include Nokia's existing 40 stores in Russia, including its best-performing flagship store, in the Pushkin Square district of Moscow. The company is also working with carriers to sell services and work out data usage fees for smartphones on prepaid plans.

Mobile TeleSystems, Russia's largest mobile-phone company, offered a three-month free data package with the N97 smartphone last year to encourage users to try out extras such as navigation and photo sharing.

"Unlimited data plans don't really exist at the moment like you see in European markets but I have no doubt it will come and hopefully by the end of the year," Saeijs said. "We'll be working with the operators to stimulate them to do this because we know that's the way to get a bigger services uptake."

Nokia will introduce phones that can accommodate two different SIM cards, he said, confirming the company's announcement at an investor meeting in December. Dual-SIM cards are a popular feature in prepaid markets where people may have numbers on different services to take advantage of deals.

Industry average handset prices in Russia are expected to rebound in the second half of this year and 2011 after falling as much as 30 per cent last year on the financial crisis, Saeijs said.

As the financial crisis depressed phone sales, Russian mobile retailers consolidated into bigger chains, including stores run by carriers MTS and VimpelCom.