NAVTEQ: carriers expound on LBS

Location-based services are one of the few mobile applications that have managed to retain a healthy dose of enthusiasm. At the NAVTEQ Connections 2007 conference, which was co-located with the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment, show, NAVTEQ's senior vice president of consumer and enterprise Winston Guillory said that 50 percent of mobile subscribers in North America have GPS-enabled phones. As GPS and other location technologies become more pervasive, Guillory said the industry is taking LBS "beyond directions and into a richer consumer experience."

Carrier representatives had mixed reactions to the proposition of using multiple access technologies to identify a user's location. AT&T's Lai Lau said she thinks there is still a lot of work to do for technologies other than GPS for location identification. Lau noted, however, that AT&T has launched at least four GPS-enabled phones that have WiFi embedded too, which shows that the carrier is starting to implement other technologies. That level of seamless connectivity for LBS applications that make use of both WiFi hotspots and GPS technology is about six months to one year out, she said.

T-Mobile's Venetia Espinoza and Verizon Wireless' Dale Beasley were less forthcoming about WiFi/GPS hybrid solutions for LBS applications. Espinoza said carriers need to take more time to understand the challenges developers are facing in implementing such solutions, while Beasley only conceded that "if customers are looking for seamless solutions, then that's where we will focus our efforts." 

Social networking, advertising, pictures and messaging were the four areas that the carrier reps thought would benefit most from LBS moving forward. Beasley explained that today LBS is focused on navigation, but he believes social networking with LBS functionalities will become incredibly popular with younger generations. 

Both T-Mobile and AT&T said they consider their handset maker partners to closely align with them in the launch of LBS applications. Verizon's Beasley, however, said Verizon Wireless prefers its handset manufacturers to be their handset manufacturers and their application developers to be their application developers. - Brian