Reliance BigMaps launched

Sunday, September 20, 2009, 17:18 by Tech Correspondent

And we’re clueless about what it means, what it costs and when you’ll get it.

Reliance Mobile has launched what it calls BigMaps on its GSM network. The Reliance Mobile announcement on BigMaps has left me completely puzzled, though I have been using GPS and location-based navigation on my BlackBerry for the last couple of years.

Reliance says the BigMaps service is launched on the GSM network. This means the BigMaps initiative is only for customers of Reliance Mobile, the GSM business from Reliance Communications. It wont be on the CDMA network, which is the company’s bigger user base. So before getting excited, check whether your Reliance mobile is on the CDMA network or GSM.

What is Reliance BigMaps? I dont know. The Reliance press release says “Reliance Communications is the first telecom operator to offer BIGMaps service.” Naturally. Airtel or Vodafone won’t launch a navigation service with the ADAG group brand name BIG. The press release adds: “BIGMaps service allows search across Business, Directions, Events and Movies by organising local information on a pan-India basis.” This is as clueless as it can get. I use navigation software to FIND and REACH destinations and points of interest. I do not SEARCH ACROSS Business, directions and what not. Can I find and reach destinations by SEARCHING ACROSS businesses and directions? It is not clear.

The press release adds: “At present, it’s available on mobile through SMS, WAP and downloads. Plans are afoot to offer the service through internet in the near future.” This is again mystifying. How do I use BigMaps to find directions? SMS and WAP? You mean I should SMS some Reliance Mobile number and they will SMS me the directions? How do I use WAP to use BigMaps? Not clear. And downloads? What does that mean? Do I have to download BigMaps map data and install it on my mobile phone before starting to use it? So which phones can be used for this? Completely hazy.

The press release adds: “With the launch of BIGMaps service, Reliance Mobile intends to offer world-class local search platform for India with maps data across 15 zoom levels and real time landmark based routing.” Thats a good intention, but its not clear still. Local search platform with map data? Is it a mechanism to search for information, or is it a real-time location-based navigation service? The world-class local press release doesnt say in which metros and areas these services will be accessible. Only in select areas? Or across the entire Reliance Mobile GSM network in India? What does it cost? No indication.

It goes on: “Once public beta is opened on web, the platform will allow rich mobile-web experience leveraging on the best in class maps and geo-coded yellow pages information for India.” Public beta on web: So do I need a GPRS connection? Not clear. In most GPS and location-based navigation on mobile phones, either you have the map data downloaded on the phone, or you access Google Maps or something similar live, real-time, with a GPRS connection. Its not clear how you access “public beta”.

BIGMaps service, the press release says, is available on RWorld for download and WAP search. So BigMaps service (which is available now) and the “public beta” (which is not opened yet) are two different services? How are they different?

Commenting on the launch of the new service, Mr Krishna Durbha, Head – VAS, Reliance Communications said, “Our BigMap service reiterates our focus of driving VAS leadership through innovative offerings. This service will increase the usage of device based search & navigation. Business, Event, Direction and PointnFind search are for the serious users, while Friend finder adds the fun element”. I agree the focus is right: We need affordable, user-friendly and wide-ranging navigational services in India. The BigMaps announcement just creates confusion.

According to the Reliance Mobile press release, this is “just a beginning and whole lot of unique features on the platform and across data are in store.” Which is a good promise. Mr Manav Sethi, COO, BIGMaps says: “BIGMaps has the best Maps data and geo-coded yellow pages information with 20+ Mn geoc-coded buildings across India which once opened on web allows for most accurate search and user generated content. The missing restaurant could be added on the exact building and its possible to search cafe around atlantis building in Bandra. We are also ready with the mapmaker tool where in a missing building could be added next to the one on the map”.” This sounds good, though I wonder why someone put out a press release which spells geocoding wrong. Still, the promise sounds good; but remember that it will be available only “once opened on web.” So, for now, its just a press release.

Interestingly, BigMaps is NOT a brand-name of Reliance Mobile, which is what I thought. At the end of the confusing press release is a small para which says BIGMaps is a Mumbai based start-up. “It aims to organize local information on India. The platform is built using open source technologies and leverages the best maps and geo-coded yellow pages data for India.” Great. Doesnt give me goosebumps.

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