November 7, 2005

Australia lags rest of world in location services

Posted in Articles at 9:44 pm by siddey

Today I emailed Australia’s major telecommunications operators in an attempt to find out if anyone is even remotely close to investing in some serious LBS infrastructure. Not only do we have ZERO GPS enabled handsets on the market here, the best we have to offer LBS-wise is whereis.com.au. Now I don’t know about you but I think an electronic street directory is helpful, however, it’s not quite what I would call innovative or sticky. It’s also never a good sign when the best you can drum up as promotional material is a website providing locations to Australian public toilets and one other local government website. Next time the toilet in my home is broken, I’ll know where to go. Wouldn’t it make sense to have this available on handsets? Their technical API sections are also closed to the general developer world. Perhaps someone at Sensis (Telstra division) should re-consider this strategy in-light of the current results.

In a small, hyper-competitive market such as Australia, I would have thought the Telcos would be onto LBS pronto in an attempt to attract new customers to their networks and to also create new opportunities for generating advertising revenue. The reality is, however, that consumers are still paying exorbitant uncapped data charges even for the new 3G networks, with the exception of Hutchison’s 3 network. ‘3’ has a number of capped services which is promising but still no sign of LBS.

Data charges on mobiles are evil, make no mistake about it! In my humble opinion, it is obvious that most of the major operators are not prepared to risk erosion of their business segment for the benefit of the lowest common denominator (the average consumer). For those consumers always eager to live on the bleeding edge, they’re quite happy to hit them with high data charges and yet at the same time expect them to spend more time using their mobiles. What does that say about their perception of our intelligence?

I am hoping that voices such as mine will eventually be heard and that we will soon see innovation return to Australia’s telecommunications market. 3G is great stuff but not accompanied by exorbitant pricing and no innovation. If you take a look across all of the current 3G networks, there is next to nothing to differentiate their offering, except perhaps for some of 3’s interactive consumer oriented services such as chat (and no, I don’t work for ‘3’). Right now everyone still seems to be saying to me, “pay us lots of money so you can download media content, slower and of lower quality than what you can at home.”

I am not wishing to solely pick on Telstra, however as an example, given their current woes, one would hope to see a little creativity come from their general direction. If we examine their move into i-mode, we could infer that it is an attempt to create their own mini-web (a walled garden) based on the NTT Docomo model in Japan. Arguably it worked for Japan because the market for mobiles was far more advanced than the availability of Internet connectivity at the time (early 90’s). Hence their communications market evolved into a mobile handset oriented one instead of experiencing the early web boom that the rest of the world did. NTT Docomo effectively built their own closed-web in which participants had to pay to enter. If only we had a market of 47+ million subscribers, perhaps that would get us some attention too!

Will Telstra succeed? Not without innovation. Give us leading handsets, Felica and most importantly, give us Location Based Services! Sol, you may still stand a chance of tempting me to the dark side but you’ll have to be quick about it.

So now I will wait and see if there is any response to my query. I will keep you posted. If anyone has any inside information to share, please do! 🙂

*end rant*

 

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