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GPS obsessed

30 March 2016

Vodafone Buys Sweden’s Wayfinder For $30 Million: Wireless Operators Now Playing LBS Catch-Up

Vodafone, the world’s largest telecommunications group by revenue, has purchased Wayfinder for 239 million Swedish crowns, the equivalent of $30 million.  Wayfinder offers a variety of navigational products including its flagship Wayfinder Navigator which features maps and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions for use on mobile.  The Wayfinder software, now available in 19 languages, will be used by Vodafone to likely offer its own branded location-based service platform-which could have a social networking component says CCS Insight analyst Paolo Pescatore.

The $30 million offer was placed on the table by Vodafone and after a third party review panel deemed it fair, Wayfinder’s Board of Directors recommended to the company’s shareholders-collectively holding 44.9 percent of company shares-that they approve the deal.  Which, of course, they did.  It looked to be a good decision.  As of market close yesterday, Wayfinder shares were priced at 3.40 crowns.  The deal valued them at 12.00 crowns per share.

This is actually an extremely significant development in the LBS industry.  As far as I know this is the first time a major wireless operator has purchased a navigational software firm (please correct me if I’m wrong).  And with voice revenues falling and operators looking to increase data revenues to offset the losses, this deal could be the tipping point after which competing operators may make LBS-related acquisitions of their own.  There are plenty of navigational software providers who offer platforms on which operators could build their own branded LBS services-Mexens Technologies, Skyhook and Loc-Aid are a few off the top of my head.  Clear, formerly Sprint’s Xohm network before its merger with Clearwire, is the only other wireless network I know of that has taken location seriously thus far.  Though no software firms were purchased outright, several LBS providers including uLocate Communications provide the network a location-based backbone.

Still, Vodafone is far ahead.  The company partnered with GPS maker TomTom earlier this year to access the company’s High-Definition traffic service.  TomTom uses anonymous location data from Vodafone’s huge network of mobile phones to craft a real-time traffic data service.  Right now it’s available in the Netherlands, France, and the UK.  By the second half of 2009, TomTom HD should also be able to Vodafone subscribers in Germany, Switzerland, and Portugal.

For more about Wayfinder, check out my interview with the company’s vice president of innovations Jonas Sellergren.

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