Demand in Asia is driven by robust networks, creative applications and technologies that can reliably pinpoint the position of a handheld Mobile location services, once considered more hype than reality, are gaining mainstream acceptance in Hong Kong and other Asian markets, industry experts say. Business and consumer demand for location-based services have posted steady gains in Hong Kong, enabling the city's cellular network industry to take a leading position in this market segment. 'Outside of Japan and [South] Korea, Hong Kong has become the leading developer of location-based services in Asia,' said Sunday group managing director Bruce Hicks. He said many services were geared for enterprises and had become a growing revenue source for local GSM operators, powered by robust networks, creative applications and improving location technologies. Mobile location services, which help pinpoint a mobile phone's position, are used by companies to track merchandise or staff and to enhance communication between family members. Mr Hicks said the development of third-generation (3G) networks, which provide bigger bandwidth and faster data transmission speeds, would offer 'richer applications' for the mobile location needs of consumers and businesses in Hong Kong. In 2003, Sunday single-handedly raised the profile of mobile location services in Hong Kong when it launched location-based Sars updates from the Department of Health. Sunday subscribers were given access to that data via text messages that included information on locations visited by suspected Sars patients and the names of buildings within a kilometre of the subscriber's calling area in which there were confirmed cases of atypical pneumonia. Ken Hyers, principal analyst at New York-based ABI Research, said: 'I'd like to say that 2005 will be the year of [location-based services], but most operators have continued to lag. The operators have a lot on their plates and location technology is not a priority for them. There are technical issues to overcome and privacy issues as well.' ABI said markets operating above those issues were Japan and South Korea, where CDMA operators such as SK Telecom and KDDI continue to raise their average revenue per user by expanding location-based services based mainly on the satellite-based Global Positioning System. Chris Wade, chief executive of mobile location technology supplier Cambridge Positioning Systems (CPS), said Hong Kong and the mainland could challenge Japan and South Korea's dominance in location-based services as improvements were made in their systems. He said CPS's mobile location technology - Matrix - had been selected by partner Sichuan Yingda Technology in the mainland to drive new location-based services on Sichuan Unicom, part of the China Unicom network. An early version of this CPS technology was also tested by SmarTone Telecommunications in Hong Kong a few years ago. Mobile operators are requiring consistent accuracy within 100 metres in all environments - including indoors and dense urban areas, where satellite-based mobile location technology struggles to perform. 'Across Asia, operators are telling us that location-based services are moving up their agenda for deployments as they understand the potential for new enterprise and consumer offerings,' Mr Wade said. Research firm Gartner said every wireless technology could provide location information with varying degrees of accuracy. It forecast that most wireless communications devices would have built-in location capabilities and be traceable to within 20 metres, from 50 metres to 100 metres now.