Mobile Location Based Services Ready to Move

February 24, 2010

A convergence of factors is setting up ideal conditions for the global mobile location based services (MLBS) market to boom by 2014, according to Juniper Research.

Global market revenues for MLBS and location-enabled mobile apps should reach more than $12.7 billion by 2014. The greatest number of users is currently in the Far East and China, as Japan and South Korea were early adopters of MLBS technology. However, as the Chinese market develops and continues to have better access to 3G mobile networks, China will become the number one market for MLBS.

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The MLBS market is growing to the point that location-based services are now a standard feature on many mobile devices. By 2014, mobile location-based services will be so ubiquitous that Juniper expects the need to break out MLBS as a special interest category will cease.

iPhone, iTunes Lead MLBS Drivers

The MLBS market was fairly stagnant from 2000-2007, but began accelerating in 2008 and 2009, and should only develop even more quickly in the next few years. One of the biggest drivers for MLBS growth has been the launch of the Apple iPhone and Apple iTunes stores. These events fundamentally changed how developers and users view mobile phone apps, and also introduced large numbers of consumers to the concept of mobile apps.

In addition, high-capacity infrastructure has penetrated most major markets, with 20% of mobile users in Western Europe and North America having 3G access in 2009 and 80% expected to have 3G access by 2014. Similarly, 25% of global mobile users had mobile internet access in 2009, and 80% should by 2014.

Other drivers include the development of sophisticated device center positioning and navigable digital map content technologies in the past few years.

Mobile Advertising will Monetize MLBS
Although mobile advertising has a way to go before its business models and operating mechanisms become commonplace, Juniper analysts believe mobile advertising will weather the current recession better than most other sectors and show exceptional growth when a recovery gets underway.

The use of some MLBS and location-enabled apps provides the ideal medium for location-sensitive mobile advertising. The primary service type would be mobile search, as in the local search environment the user is looking for a product or service and highly receptive to advertising.

Mobile Device Popularity Surges
The popularity of smartphones, 3G devices and other advanced mobile applications surged in the US during 2009, according to comScore mobiLens data. Between December 2008 and December 2009, the percentage of US mobile phone subscribers with unlimited data plans increased from 16% to 21%, with several phones now requiring an unlimited data plan subscription at the time of purchase. During the same period, smartphone ownership increased from 11% to 17%, while 3G phone ownership increased from 32% to 43%.

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