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GPS becomes more than a back-seat driver

Telmap shares locations, while Vodafone dodges traffic

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Vodafone has announced a deal with TomTom to develop a co-branded product for avoiding traffic jams, just as Telmap launches version 3 of its software, with the needs of the pedestrian in mind.

With less than half a dozen GPS-equipped handsets on sale in the UK we're clearly in the very early stages of any location-based revolution, and with operators mysteriously reluctant to embrace A-GPS (which requires network support, but is cheaper) the functionality is likely to remain the preserve of high-end devices for a while.

But this hasn't prevented Telmap from launching its latest version with enhanced mapping for those walking, as well as the ability to send location information over SMS - to other Telmap users at least.

Telmap has been trying to get operators interested in branding their own mapping services for a while, but with little success. Now it's selling through operator portals, to users who understand the value of location-based services even if their operators don't.

Operators seem reluctant to embrace location services until a sufficient member of handsets support it, but the handsets won't come until the operators ask for them; leading to a chicken-and–egg situation which is going to need cracking.

Once users have GPS they certainly use it. Oren Nissim, CEO of Telmap, reckons US networks have seen a 30 to 40 per cent activation rate on GPS-equipped handsets, and 40 per cent is normally the rate at which a technology is considered worth bundling into handsets as standard.

That's certainly the kind of adoption rate Vodafone will be looking for before launching its service with Tom Tom. Scheduled for the first half of 2008, the details are vague but such a schedule could well be an indication that Vodafone is planning an A-GPS service, thus opening the way for cheaper location services in the UK, and applying pressure on the other operators to follow suit.

Vodafone wasn't available for comment on the matter, at least not yet. ®

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