GPS mobile phone sales set to quadruple

1 Nov 2007

Due to the US Government’s mandate for emergency 911 (E911) capability as well as mobile operators’ move in the direction of location-based services, iSuppli predicts that global shipments of mobile handsets with GPS capabilities will quadruple by 2011.

iSuppli predicts that GPS-equipped mobile handset shipments will increase to 444 million units by 2011, rising from 109.6 million units in 2006.

By 2011, 29.6 percent of all mobile phones shipped will have GPS capability, up from 11.1 percent in 2006.

“Besides cameras, multimedia capabilities and connectivity solutions, mobile-handset OEMs increasingly are investigating the integration of GPS functionality in mobile devices as a value-added product differentiator,” said Tina Teng, analyst, wireless communications at iSuppli.

“Wireless carriers are looking at introducing various new GPS-based, revenue-generating services to increase average revenue per user (ARPU).”

Such location-based services (LBSs) are the key services that could drive up ARPU levels. LBSs include a broad range of value-added services that incorporate user location pinpointed by satellites or other tools with location databases.

The most common services are user location, turn-by-turn navigation, location search, tracking, information services and social networking.

E911 mandates also are driving the expansion of the GPS-enabled handset market in the United States. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1996 issued a report that requires all operators to precisely locate the position of wireless callers making emergency 911 calls.

The regulation was implemented in three phases: Phases 0, I and II. Phase II of the E911 implementation requires all operators to deliver specific latitude and longitude information of the caller, also known as automatic location identification (ALI). This can be accomplished using a GPS-enabled mobile handset.

Qualcomm, the dominant supplier of code division multiple access (CDMA) solutions, began to integrate GPS processors into its digital baseband semiconductors in 2000. This company always ensures its CDMA network infrastructure products support the functionalities that its digital basebands deliver — including GPS.

Because of this, the CDMA-dominated nations of the United States and South Korea are expected to be the leading regions for GPS-enabled mobile handsets.

Europe will be the next largest GPS-enabled handset market as the functionality penetrates into smart phones. In September, a Nokia smart phone with GPS capability was the top model purchased on the website of European carrier O2.

Semiconductor suppliers, wireless network operators and device manufacturers are already in the GPS game. LBS will encourage more suppliers to provide the most efficient solutions in terms of power consumption, TTFF (Time to First Fix) and affordable pricing for A-GPS adoption.

Semiconductor suppliers include: baseband providers that offer complete solutions from cellular products to various connectivity options, companies that specialise in GPS and that provide GPS chipsets and software packages and companies that specialize in radio frequency (RF) and that integrate GPS receivers into their current cellular RF receiver offerings.

By John Kennedy