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June - 2008 - issue > Technology
Navigation on mobile Your guiding companion!
Jayakishore Bayadi
Friday, May 30, 2008
Your cell phone will not be merely a calling companion any more. Like in the west, soon in India mobile phones will embrace a new avatar as your ‘guide’ to keep you from getting lost while navigating in an unfamiliar place. Global Positioning System (GPS), a navigation and precise-positioning tool, which could be a boon for operators to offer many such value added services via mobile is poised to be the next big wave in mobility soon.

With average revenue per user (ARPU) plummeting swiftly in the country’s booming cellular market, service providers and handset manufacturers are gearing up to lure the customers by offering navigation products and solutions. Finally, GPS is all set to revolutionize the common man’s life in India as well.

The players
“Maps and Navigation on a cell phone are poised to be the next big wave,” affirms Vineet Taneja, Head, Go-to-Market, Nokia. The company currently rules 90 percent of the navigation on mobiles space in India, as others are not active in this space, as of now. The size of Indian navigation market is now at $100 million, but there is potential for quick growth to $448 million in the next two to three years. Nokia is the first in India to launch maps-compatible mobile handsets last year. Recently, it released the 2.0 version of maps on its higher end phones, which will focus on pedestrian guidance and help users create and share mapping data with others.

There are local content providers that offer location and navigation services for mobile phones in India such as MapmyIndia, SatGuide, and other startups that are eyeing the growing GPS market. MapmyIndia claims that it has much superior quality downloadable maps that cover 1,000 cities and six lakh villages and towns covering 1.7 million road kms. “We will take on biggies like Nokia with our superior quality maps than they offer and we have tie-ups with other cellphone manufactureres as well to include our maps in their phones,” says Rakesh Verma, MD, MapmyIndia. SatGuide has introduced maps in eight Indian languages. Sweden based Wayfinder Systems AB, a supplier of location and navigation services for mobile phones, is set to offer its location-based services in India from August. It expects that by the end of this year there will be about two million customers in India willing to pay for the navigation service.
However, for service providers per se, it is not an easy task for them to gain a foothold in the navigation space because there are several issues to address like regular updation, accuracy, putting more points of interest, and simplifying the maps. Also, the maps should be designed in such a way that they work in the Indian market is another major challenge. So,GPS as VAS to be offered by the service providers is still in a nascent stage, as there are complex decisions to be made about pricing and partnerships between software and hardware vendors and service providers.

According to the market research company RNCOS’s report, globally, growing use of GPS tools in automotive and consumer applications is propelling the market for mobile location technologies. And this has led to a spurt in the sales of smart mobile devices (SMDs). Sales of SMDs in India increased by 28 percent to 849,100 units first quarter of 2008, of which 85.5 percent are individual users and the rest are small, medium, and large enterprises, says the global market research firm Canalys. “This is a testimony for tremendous potential of the navigation solutions market,” says Rachel Lashford, Manager, Canalys APAC. The SMD market is expected to touch 7.9 million units by 2010, and of this nearly 45 percent will be GPS enabled phones.

Revenue model
Experts believe that growing market size for location-based services in India can benefit the customers as well as the industry, including service providers and advertisers. Yet, notes Guninder Singh, Marketing Manager, Airtel, “Navigation industry in India is still an investment model, the revenue model is yet to emerge.” Besides, it is very important to target the youths to make fast money as over 40 percent of the population will be in the age group of 20-44 by 2010, a hot consumer segment the industry should be eyeing at.

Further, a key daunting factor for the propagation of GPS is lack of awareness amongst the users. Secondly, still most parts of the country have not been digitally mapped. Hence, it will take some time to get to other locations. But the fast advent of GPS devices and increasing consumer education around turn-by-turn navigation will change this soon, the experts believe.

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