Set my location free

I’m a big believer in the power of location-based services. Everyday activities like local search, weather and communications can be greatly simplified by using automatic location.

The biggest obstacles (and, to be fair, the biggest enablers) of location-based services, are the wireless carriers. After being forced into the location business by E911 mandates, they’ve largely locked the doors to that location. That GPS chip in the phone you just bought? More likely than not, you can’t access the location it finds.

The carriers want you to pay a toll for every application. Want local weather? $3/month. Navigation services? $10/month. Movies? $4/month. And that’s on top of the $15-$25/month they want for the data service. If desktop Web services were priced the same way that carriers want to price applications, the bill for the applications I use would be $200-$300 a month.

More realistically, my Web bill would be close to zero, because I wouldn’t use anything. The only reason I pay Comcast for Internet access is the applications that AOL, Google, Yahoo! and numerous startups have created. The total dollar value of Comcast applications I use is exactly $0.00.

Likewise, the applications I use on my mobile phone are applications created by Google (maps and mail) and Yahoo! (mobile portal). They are the reasons I pay Sprint anything for wireless data. And they would be a lot more compelling to a lot more uses if they were location enabled.

Instant traffic and weather are the benefits, location is an enabler. Consumers can’t see the tremendous value of these applications because the carriers won’t let the applications have access to the location. Not seeing the benefit, consumers don’t buy wireless data. Everyone loses – the carriers, application developers and consumers.

We’ll eventually land at the same model we have for Web access. In the meantime, the carriers will have lost a lot of opportunity.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
This entry was posted in gps, mobile, mobile search, wireless, wireless data. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Set my location free

  1. Pingback: WHERE in the world am I? « reDesign

  2. Rocky,

    >> That GPS chip in the phone you just bought? More likely than not, you can’t access the location it finds.

    YES YOU CAN… and we’re doing it live in real time. We have a set of developer API’s that you can use to deliver real time location based information to your web server.

    We have live demo’s running that show you real time local search based off GPS data received from your mobile device.

    Here’s the magic. We figured out how to embed the GPS signal from the mobile device inside the outgoing HTTP request headers so they can be sent to ANY web server. We then invented Mod_LBS which intercepts those headers (decrypts them) and then bingo you have someone’s location information.

    We can also deliver mobile coupons based on a customer current location and in response to a search request.

    Everything you need to know is on our web site

    All the best,


  3. Kevin Kiley says:

    The carriers are no longer part of the equation when it comes to LBS ( Location Based Services ).
    The 5o9 software has been able to add any/all relevant
    LBS information to ALL Mobile client HTTP requests for almost a year now. Check it out.
    Adding LBS information to client requests totally bypasses the carriers ( and does more than they could ever do even if they wanted to ).

  4. Pingback: Sprint sets location free - sort of « reDesign

  5. Pingback: Flickr launches browser-based geolocation « reDesign mobile

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