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Sirf releases new GPS tech., chips

SAN JOSE, Calif.-“My expectation is that over time you’ll see GPS become a part of the overall phone platform,” said Kanwar Chadha, founder of GPS technology provider Sirf Technology Inc. Chadha’s beliefs are at the core of Sirf’s new product releases, technologies the company hopes will improve the location functions for its current customers as well as entice new customers.

Today Sirf announced several new GPS technologies and chipsets for wireless devices as well as a server product the company said will improve wireless carriers’ location-based services. The moves represent an effort to spur the use of location-based applications beyond E911 locating services.

“Location-based services can generate ARPU,” Chadha said. “When you look to LBS, you have to do much more than E911.”

The Federal Communications Commission set mandates for wireless carriers to be able to locate callers dialing 911. Although there are a variety of location technologies, most carriers appear to be moving toward products that incorporate location-finding technology into both the phone and the network. Sirf hopes to play in both areas.

Sirf has long provided GPS chipsets to device makers; Motorola Inc. uses Sirf chips in its mobile phones, as do several personal digital assistant vendors. Today the company released its new SiRFstarIII lineup, which includes technology that improves the GPS reception on phones and also eliminates the need for a specialized GPS chipset. Chadha said Sirf’s new products improve GPS reception inside buildings, but they cannot guarantee a signal.

On the server side, Sirf released its new SiRFLoc Server, which Chadha said supports a high volume of location calculations and thereby can improve location accuracy. Chadha said E911 calls do not necessarily generate high LBS traffic but that location-based applications like restaurant finders will, and carriers will need a high-volume server to deal with the increased traffic.

Although Sirf plays in a variety of GPS areas, Chadha said wireless will be the segment with the most growth.

Most GSM carriers today rely on cell-site information for location services, while most CDMA carriers use GPS technologies from Qualcomm Inc. Sirf hopes to increase sales of GPS chipsets to handset makers like Motorola, which includes Sirf GPS chips in all of its Nextel Communications Inc. phones.

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