Speculation is running rampant that Bell plans to interfere with GPS on BlackBerry mobile phone devices in the near future. The rapidy spreading rumour says that in the coming weeks Bell will cause users of free GPS mapping applications (Google maps, or BlackBerry maps, for example) to experience GPS lock times of 2 to 10 minutes, up from the 15 to 20 seconds usually experienced. Users will be able to spend $10/month to regain access to high speed GPS locks by subscribing to Bell’s own GPS service, called GPS Nav.
Assisted GPS, which is the technology used by today’s GPS handsets, can make a GPS fix simple and quick to establish. It works by using the phone’s cellular system to also communicate with the cell towers, adding another level of accuracy to the fix. If Bell were to simply turn of AGPS for non-subscribers, the effect described would be a delay of 2 to 10 minutes. I personally experienced this over the past summer travelling in Europe in countries where I had no data access on my Nokia N78.
Let’s hope the bean counters at Bell are thinking twice. A move like this would more than likely result in the mass of cell phone users interested in navigation simply picking up and moving to Rogers where no such restriction exists.