Wireless carrier investment in location platforms on the rise: study
By Chantal Tode
October 24, 2011
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Driven by government mandates around locating emergency calls, wireless carriers are looking at enhancing their location-based services platforms, a move that could present new opportunities for marketers.
An estimated 30 percent of the mobile network operators worldwide have deployed at least some type of basic location platform. However, the investment in these services is expected to double in the next five years, reaching $415 million by 2016, according to a new study from Berg Insight.
“What is happening right now is that a lot of companies are entering this market and the existing legacy companies who have previously provided location platforms for carriers are thinking in new ways,” said André Malm, senior analyst at Berg Insight, Gothenberg, Sweden.
“The real drivers of this are the government mandate to locate emergency calls as well as the location of the criminals and other suspects for security services,” he said.
Emergency call mandates
Location-based services typically use the geographic location of a handset, with the majority of the services today using location data obtained directly from GPS receivers in the handset or various third-party location databases rather than directly from carriers.
However, this is starting to change as governments and telecom regulators in many parts of the world introduce stricter emergency call and lawful intercept mandates that require carriers to invest in location platforms.
Nearly 70 percent of all emergency calls today are placed from mobile phones. However, it can be difficult for callers to convey their location accurately to first responders which is why automatic location platforms, which can reduce the time to find the location of the caller, are being used.
These mobile location platforms can enable public safety services, national security and law enforcement applications, as well as commercial services.
These efforts are focused on how to track the location of handsets beyond the traditional use of GPS.
One of the focuses is on geo-parsing, which means pinpointing how many people are in a specific geographic area at one time and being able to know when they enter or leave an area.
“This hasn’t been feasible in a realistic way before,” Mr. Malm said. “You have to ping the handsets very often and it is not efficient for the network.”
To address this, networks are looking at new ways to geo-parse by investing in new equipment and building dedicated software in handsets.
“This enables much lower cost for deploying location platforms that has been feasible in the past and is particularly useful for marketing and emergency,” Mr. Malm said.
According to Berg, Ericsson remains the leading vendor in terms of number of contracts for location platforms, ahead of Nokia Siemens Networks and TeleCommunication Systems.
“It is quite early,” Mr. Malm said. “Some of the carriers are starting partial deployments of these new platforms.
“Companies can use GPS in the phone but if you want to locate handsets, this could be a new way of doing it more efficiently,” he said.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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