Location Based Services: Too much hype?

Telecom players and wireless firms who are pushing out Location Based Services (LBS) through existing platforms such as SMS and newer ones like GPRS should beware the hype surrounding it.

Telecom players and wireless firms who are pushing out Location Based Services (LBS) through existing platforms such as SMS and newer ones like GPRS should beware the hype surrounding it.

Singapore - Ovum Research reports mobile commerce is expected to generate more than $20 billion in revenue by 2006 and mobile usage to overtake that of personal computers by 2004. With such revenue potential at stake, numerous companies are making a bid at rolling out mobile location services (or LBS) within the next few years or even months.

However, keynote speakers at Mobile Internet Asia 2001 warned of the hype and euphorism built around Location Based Services, advising more caution and prudence with over-committing resources to it.

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Mobile Internet Asia 2001 is a strategy-driven event featuring high-level m-commerce case studies from telecom operators, financial institutions, and other mobile companies from Asia. It is organized by Worldwide Business Research and is being held in Singapore this year.

“There are numerous issues facing real-value to subscribers (of LBS) currently in the industry”, said Walid Sinno, director of Business Development (Asia) of Webraska Technologies, a mobile service enabler.

Speaking at one of the conference sessions, Sinno cited the “impossible expectations of Mobile Location Services” built up by subscribers and that there are numerous factors hindering a global LBS rollout.

Device proliferation, the increasing pace and complexity of technology change, and real-time country-specific challenges were some of the issues brought up by Sinno. Widespread uncertainty among telcos surrounding the wireless business models is also a contributing factor to the hype and misconceptions.

Adrian Lee, director for product management at Lycos Asia agreed, noting that “a mobile user's position is a constantly changing parameter” which needs to be resolved by a network operator before any LBS venture can succeed.

Services such as safety and emergency services, value added information (such as news, weather & traffic information), billing and location tracking services were the high demand examples used by Lee during his conference session.

However, in order to deliver such services in real-time, telcos need to look to establishing sufficient accuracy and speed, a data tranmission capability, security, roaming ability and other conditions before any benefit can be reaped.

While network operators are still reeling from the backlash of WAP and analysts expressing skepticism for the much-touted GPRS and 3G services, the case of NTT DoCoMo serves as a real-life example of success. Wesbraska Technologies’ Sinno pointed out that its open platform model demonstrates how the wireless Internet should be delivered.

“It is the challenges that create the value opportunities… (and) the winners will be those who address them worldwide”, concluded Sinno.

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