Voice-activated Wireless Location-sensitive Service to be Tested

Cell-Loc Inc. has announced that, in conjunction with Nortel Networks, a joint trial of the first voice-activated, wireless location-sensitive service using network location technology to provide that service to mobile phone users will be conducted in Austin, TX. The service employs Nortel Networks Voice Navigation System and National Directory Service and Cell-Loc's position collection and distribution system (PCDS) location middleware and Cellocate position determination equipment (PDE).

The dialing of a pre-arranged phone number will connect wireless users to location-sensitive directory assistance and navigational information without requiring the caller to provide address, cross-street, zip code or city/state information. Using its time difference of arrival (TDOA) location technology, the Cellocate network will automatically determine the caller's location.

The Voice Navigation System transforms the caller's voice request into data format and enables location-specific service routines such as Nortel's National Directory Assistance Service which can provide nearby business searches and others which deliver driving directions, call completion and eCoupon delivery to develop suitable responses. Service results are then converted to voice responses and delivered to the caller's mobile handset.

The trial is scheduled to begin in April. The service is expected to be offered commercially to telecommunications service providers in the last quarter of the year. When offered, it will be usable by current generation mobile phones, other interfaces such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and Internet-ready mobile phones.

Location-based Services to Grow to $40.7 B in 2006

In a related story, a recent Allied Business Intelligence report, "Location-based Services: A Strategic Analysis of Wireless Technologies, Markets and Trends," finds that the location-based services (LBS) industry is "standing on the brink of tremendous growth." It forecasts a worldwide LBS revenue growth from approximately $1 B in 2000 to more than $40 B in 2006, a compound annual growth rate of 81 percent.

While carriers are required to sell automatic location identification (ALI) handsets by the end of this year, most, according to the report, are also looking for new revenue streams and other unique services to reduce subscriber churn. Many have announced plans to add either network or handset-based technology to networks. Sprint Corp. has announced its intention to incorporate global positioning system (GPS) chips into its handsets by the middle of this year. Other carriers are completing LBS and location-relevant wireless advertising test markets, most with positive results.

The study finds that the LBS market must deal with privacy and unsolicited wireless advertising concerns. It expects these to be handled by the carriers in a manner that protects their investment by offering LBS customers the opportunity to select the specific features each wants and excluding all others.

The report covers the US, Europe, Japan, Latin America and other world markets for LBS and wireless subscribers, service revenues, GPS equipment, mcommerce. vcommerce and Bluetooth. For additional information, contact: Allied Business Intelligence (516) 624-3113.

Joint Venture to Provide Satellite Service to Europe, Africa and the Middle East

Europe*Star and France Telecom have finalized an agreement to provide fixed satellite services across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The new company, Stellat, has committed to the construction of a new high powered satellite, Stellat 5, which will be launched by mid-2002 into the 5° West longitude orbital slot.

Under the agreement, France Telecom will have 70 percent and Europe*Star 30 percent ownership positions in Stellat. The use of the 5° West orbital position by Stellat 5 ensures service continuity to users of France Telecom's Telecom 2 satellite which will continue to occupy the slot until the Stellat 5 is launched.

Stellat 5 construction will be based on the Spacebus 3000 B3 platform. It will carry 45 transponders, 35 Ku-band and 10 C-band. A Ku-band Superbeam will provide direct-to-home (DTH) and high speed Internet services to Europe and Northern Africa. A Ku-band Widebeam supplemented by a steerable beam will handle Internet and video distribution to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. A C-band hemi-beam will cover Africa and Europe, and there will be Ku- and C-band connections linking the US and South American eastern seaboards with Europe. The new satellite will permit the use of small (down to one meter) two-way VSATs in Europe and introduce satellite-linked fully interactive high speed IP services into that part of the world.

UK Reviewers Give WAP Services a Thumbs-down

A report published in "Which?," the magazine of the UK Consumers' Association, discussed the findings of 12 reviewers who checked mobile Internet phone services for the Association. Overall, the various wireless application protocol (WAP) services that were tested received low marks from the reviewers.

The researchers reported that WAP is not as useful a regular Internet browser. While the testers agreed that the data on WAP services were helpful, slow or lost connections frequently prevented effective use of the information. Poor instructions for programming selected WAP services into a user's mobile device were also cited as a major reason that short messaging system (SMS) service is better than WAP technology for text messaging applications. Some testers with technical experience also reported that WAP services were more basic than they had been led to believe. Summing up the findings, the magazine's editor said, "like many first generation technologies, WAP's reality falls a long way short of the hype surrounding the technology."

US GSM Proliferation to Be Driven by AT&T

In its report, "US Cellular/PCS Marketplace: Outlook and Forecasts," the Strategis Group forecasts that GSM/GPRS technology will overtake TDMA as the second-most prominent cellular/PCS standard in the US by 2004. While CDMA will retain its position as the dominant US technology, GSM will pass TDMA in 2004 and continue to widen that gap through 2007. Shares of the three technologies in 2007 are expected to be: CDMA-44 percent, GSM-31 percent and TDMA-13 percent.

According to the study, the AT&T Wireless announcement of plans for a GSM/GPRS network lead to a shift in focus to GSM-based networks. The action reflected AT&T's recognition of the economies of scale and global reach advantages offered by GSM, and other US carriers are expected to follow suit.

The report also finds that US Cellular/PCS population penetration will reach 70 percent by 2007, up from its current 38 percent. The market is expected to grow from 104.5 million subscribers in 2000 to 200.4 million in 2007. The highest growth is expected in the GSM PCS networks, which are forecast to grow from 7 percent of the cellular/PCS market in 2000 to 31 percent in 2007.

During the next seven years, voice services are expected to become commodities as carriers bundle them with enhanced services such as high speed mobile data. Alternative pricing structures such as prepaid and spending allowance plans are also expected to aid growth. Finally, the report finds increasing pressure for carrier consolidation and expects that frequent mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures will continue through 2001 until only a few national cellular/PCS carriers remain. For additional information, contact: Adam S. Guy, The Strategis Group (202) 530-7500. *