Vodafone signals mobile GPS service for 2007

Vodafone Compass will feature in-car navigation, pedestrian navigation, a location finder, and the ability to talk on the phone while navigating

Vodafone Australia has launched a GPS service — Vodafone Compass — and marked it by offering 12 months free GPS mapping for customers signing up before December 1.

Vodafone Compass will feature in-car navigation, pedestrian navigation, a location finder, automatic map updates, and the ability to talk on the phone while navigating. Once the free 12 months offer expires, the service will be available from A$2.50 per day (NZ$3.36), A$8 per month, or A$79 per year.

“It is currently available only on the [Blackberry Curve] 8310, but we do have intentions to provide it on a broader range of devices for the Christmas period,” says Dominic Hilton-Foster, PR manager for business markets at Vodafone Australia.

Vodafone New Zealand spokesman Paul Brislen says the company recently launched the Blackberry Curve here with built in GPS. As to the possible launch of the Compass service in New Zealand, he says “that’s a ‘no’ at this stage”. However, he adds, Vodafone “will do something” later in the year but there is no detail on what that might be.

Hilton-Foster says once customers have signed up for the service, they won’t have to continually update the maps.

“We update them as a matter of course in the background, so the users are always using the most up to date maps and don’t have to do anything themselves, and there is no cost for that,” he explains. Mark Corless, technical solutions product manager for Vodafone, says that Australian mobile users are calling out for GPS-related services on their mobiles.

“Some stats came back from Gartner that says almost 40% of handsets will support GPS by the end of 2010. We also looked at past history of sales for dedicated GPS units and the stats we got from [technology market research firm] ABI found it had jumped from 30,000 in 2005 to 120,000 in 2006.”

Corless says Vodafone looked at a range of GPS providers, but felt the current services were too broad and didn’t cater specifically enough to the Australian market.

“So we decided to develop it [Compass] ourselves. We looked at a local provider, Yapp mobile, we sat down with them with a huge list of what we want to see in our product and asked them to develop something to fit our needs in Australia.”

Corless says Vodafone is planning an aggressive development strategy, with plans to release additional features to the Compass service each month. October will see the names of all streets available with their correct pronunciation, as well as the ability to share locations and routes with other Compass users. November will see handsets capable of downloading real time information, such as the price of petrol.

— Additional reporting by Rob O’Neill