The world's top handset maker Nokia said on Thursday it had agreed to buy mapping software firm gate5 AG for an undisclosed sum to tap into the fast-growing mobile navigation market.

Nokia said after the deal it will offer consumers maps, routing, navigation and other location-based applications on its mobile devices.

Nokia said it expects the market for personal navigation devices to reach 15 million units in 2006, compared with 8 million in 2005.

It has previously worked with partners like Dutch TomTom and Route 66 or Israel's Telmap to offer mapping services, and said the deal would not affect these relationships directly.

It will have no direct impact on current relations with navigation application software makers, said Nokia spokesman Kari Tuutti.

Maps and navigation are natural elements to be offered in mobile devices but this area hasn't developed as fast as expected by the market, said Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Nokia's Multimedia product division, adding the takeover would accelerate the pace.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, Nokia said.