TomTom has been given “unconditional clearance” by the European Commission to acquire mapping company TeleAtlas. The EC approval follows a similar green light from US regulators in October last year.

TomTom said: “The ruling of the EC is the best possible outcome for TomTom and TeleAtlas allowing the new combination to go ahead with the full execution of its strategy.”

Founded in 1984, TeleAtlas provides the digital maps and dynamic content that power some of the world's most essential navigation and location-based services (LBS). This includes the mapping for Google Maps as well as for many satellite navigation devices.

TomTom has an installed base of nearly 20 million devices, primarily in the portable satellite navigation market. TeleAtlas, meanwhile, is known as both mapping software for satellite navigation products and for its web-based maps.

Since last year, TomTom has been using a hybrid of TeleAtlas mapping and user-generated content to add to the pure mapping information contained on its devices. TomTom MapShare allows users to feed back details of changes to routes or errors in the navigation information provided, thereby improving the navigation experience for all TomTom customers.

Added value services are seen by satnav companies as a way of distinguishing themselves from each other and inviting customer loyalty.

The satellite navigation market is undergoing a transitional period with smaller hardware vendors being bought out or dropping out of the picture, with the big three satnav companies – TomTom, Garmin and Navman – consolidating their positions.

Last year, Mitac completed its acquisition of satellite navigation brands Mio and Navman. Between them, the three big brands account for 80 percent of the personal navigation device market. However, smartphones are making inroads into the market sector.

Last year Nokia bought TeleAtlas’ main rival, digital mapping company Navteq. And the big success story for GPS navigation last year was its implementation on mobile phones, led by Nokia’s Navigator and N95 handsets.

However, there is increasing evidence that the market for portable satellite navigation devices is reaching saturation point, with consumers looking to mobile phones as an alternative, single device to deliver navigation information on top of telephony.

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