Nokia is planning to offer free "push" e-mail on all its handsets, according to software vendor Seven, in a bid to boost the use of mobile e-mail.

"It's a market grab," said Paul Hedman, Seven's European MD and the former CEO of Seven's acquisition Smartner, whose software is involved in the deal. "Nokia is going out very aggressively offering one year's free push email for POP and IMAP users on Nokia phones."

The free service will forward email to the phone as it arrives, making POP and IMAP email easier to use on a mobile phone. If it takes off, it will be a useful revenue boost for mobile operators - only the application service is free, and users will pay normal GPRS rates for the data sent and received. "It's a good way to stimulate usage of GPRS," said Hedman, in an interview with Techworld.

"After a year, the users will get an SMS message inviting them to pay a low fee to continue the service," said Hedman. He expects the fee to be around 30 or 40 euros per year - roughly the current level for the service where it is available.

"The interesting thing will be how large a take-up rate we will have on consumers," said Hedman. In the US, last month Seven got very fast download rates for the client it launched to deliver Yahoo! e-mail on phones using the Sprint service: "In the first week we had tens of thousands of downloads," Hedman said.

Explosive growth of BlackBerry devices has made push e-mail a hot topic, since Microsoft hastily added it to Windows Mobile and Exchange after its latest verion of Windows Mobile was criticised for lacking push.

The BlackBerry device, from Research in Motion (RIM) still has a commanding lead, with three million customers, but there is a potential user base of 650 million enterprise email customers, and many more consumers, said Hedman. RIM's solution is still effectively tied to specialist hardware, and Microsoft's is currently limited to the combination of Exchange and Windows Mobile, said Hedman.

Hedman believes that, with the Nokia and Yahoo! deals, Seven can overtake RIM, but would not put a date on when he expects this to happen.

Read more of Hedman's comments on mobile email.