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2010.02.25

Location based services hit their stride, but monetization still a key question

Free navigation apps for smartphones and innovative location-based offerings are rapidly taking hold in the mobile market, although finding ways to bring in revenue for many products is still at issue.

"The Location Based service market is here," GPS Business News reporter Ludovic Privat declared in a recent wrap-up article on last week's Mobile World Congress. The article pointed out the ubiquity of LBS applications demonstrated on the show floor -- not just free and low-cost mobile apps but creative uses of LBS tailored to specific market needs.

A notable exhibitor at MWC, Privat pointed out, is Creativity Software, a company that tailors LBS applications for mobile operators. For example, the SMS Friend Finder, launched in Nigeria last year through CDMA operator StarComms, uses a cellphone's text messaging feature to pinpoint the location of a subscribers friends or family.

Creativity Software also last year launched ZoneWise, a home-based billing solution that uses LBS features to enable mobile network operators, particularly in developing countries, to offer virtual fixed-line services to customers. Operators use location to offer special rates to subscribers who use their cellphones within "zones," such as the area around their home or office.

Quite a bit of excitement still lingers around the availability of free navigation applications on smartphones. Google's announcement last fall that it would offer free turn-by-turn navigation on any Android-enabled phone had developers scrambling to find ways to compete.

Some are taking indirect routes to monetize their navigation apps. Rather than charging the customer directly, as the old navigation business model did, services like Telmap are adding their software to bundles offered by MNOs to subscribers. Google has said it will run advertising alongside its navigation app, Privat reports.

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