Orange users will be able find their nearest cash point or restaurant using a location-based service for Wap phones being launched next week.
Available to all Orange Wap customers, it is the first Wap service in the UK that automatically detects a user's location. Existing services require the entry of a postcode to specify a location.
Using the service, customers can get information on facilities close to where they are such as the nearest pub, restaurant, cinema, cash point, hospital or police station, and can also receive driving directions to another location.
The launch follows a trial with 800 Orange customers around the UK. According to the company, such services will become as ubiquitous and important to the mobile customer as voicemail and caller ID.
Richard Brennan, commercial director at Orange, said: "The usage patterns among trial users demonstrated real demand for location-based services. The time is now right to make these location-sensitive services available to all our customers."
Dario Betti, an analyst with research firm Ovum, said he expects other operators to launch similar services soon. "There has been a bit of hype around the mobile market, and the launch of location services will be seen as an assurance to customers that new things will arrive and make browsing easier," he said. "Navigation on Wap phones is not easy and anything that can improve it is a good thing."
Orange, which paid £4bn for a third-generation (3G) licence earlier this year, is under pressure to deliver new and exciting services that will justify the heavy licence fee. However, Betti said that location-based services will have little impact on its revenue.
"Orange's location-based services will not pay for expensive 3G licences," he said. "It is more a nice addition to its current services rather than a huge source of revenue."
The new offering includes technology from AirFlash, a US company which develops location-based wireless applications. The operator said it will continue to work with AirFlash and other partners to develop new location services over the coming year.
Last month, Orange introduced a free Wap calls at the weekends offer for its customers. Subscribers will have free unlimited Wap access from midnight Friday until midnight Sunday every weekend until 28 February.
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