Bangalore: The world’s largest Internet firm Google Inc. has finally launched in India a local version of its Maps for Mobile service that enables people to find restaurants, schools and other locations and navigate cities across the country by logging in on their hand phones.
The service comes with the My Location feature that provides such information without a mobile phone needing to be equipped with GPS, or Global Positioning System. Google launched Maps on Mobile in the US in 2005 and with the My Location feature in November 2007.
In India, Google had to delay the launch as agencies such as the Survey of India, the country’s official mapping organisation, had reservations over the firm showing international borders on its mobile map service.
“The map service is the local ‘search on the go’ and we also have My Location,” Prasad Ram, head of research and development at the US company’s India unit, said in an interview. “The legal issue was technical. It is (now) clear(ed).”
Previously, only people who had Google maps downloaded on their mobile phones were able to use it in the country through a GPS connection. But now, even users with phones that are equipped with the general packet radio service, or GPRS, that helps access the Internet, can use it.
Prasad Ram, head of research and development, Google India, says users can find their location within a few hundred metres. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
“Google seems to have plenty of data—businesses, places of interest,” said Lalit Bhise, chief executive of Mobisy Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore start-up that builds applications for mobile devices.
Google is expecting users with basic GPRS-enabled phones to access services such as My Location that uses a technique called triangulation.
Triangulation, a decade-old concept, is a mobile-phone solution that identifies a customer’s location based on the base towers of the phone firm.
“Users can find their location (with)in a few hundred metres. Now such (GPRS) phones are available for as low as Rs2200,” said Ram.
Internet firms are riding on the increasing reach of the mobile phone in India to tap consumers. India is the world’s second biggest mobile phone market with about 300 million users, next only to China. It is also the fastest growing wireless market.
In India, Yulop.com, a Bangalore start-up, offers local search on mobile phones for 150,000 business listings in the southern city, and plans to have at least two million listings in 28 cities by December. “One issue Google needs to address is how quickly can they penetrate, to ensure that every GPRS user has a (map) application on the handset,” said Gundaiah Sridhar, founder and chief executive of Yulop.
Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia Oyj has introduced phones in India that have maps embedded on handsets, that help users find their destinations. “Location-based services and GPS on a cell phone is poised to be the next big wave in mobility.,” Nokia said in a statement.