Up to now, the main uses of global positioning system (GPS) receivers have included navigating passenger jets, stabilizing floating oil rigs and locating mobile phone distress calls.

But that may be changing as more mobile operators offer GPS-enabled location-based services (LBS) — and none too soon for marketers who envision a world of instantly pinpointing consumers.

A new report from ABI Research, "Location-Based Services," estimates that globally GPS-enabled LBS subscribers will rise from 12 million in 2006 to 315 million in 2011.

That represents an increase from less than .5% of total wireless subscribers today to more than 9% worldwide in the next five years — an 18-fold boost.

Market growth has been limited by the fact that very few GSM/WCDMA handsets have GPS, but ABI Research expects that beginning in 2007 and increasing in 2008, many more WCDMA 3G phones will contain GPS chipsets, allowing operators to offer LBS.

Advertisers and marketers of a wide array of products and services, particularly local services, are excited about LBS because it would enable them to direct ads in real-time based on the specific geographic location of a mobile phone user — in other words, instant POP advertising.

Of course, some areas of the world will offer the services before others.

"Regions of greatest growth will be North America and Western Europe," said senior analyst Ken Hyers of ABI. "The Asia-Pacific region will have strong growth as well, but it will vary by market. Leaders South Korea and Japan will continue to be engines of LBS growth, but North America, which has seen strong business use for several years, is expected to see significant consumer uptake in 2007 and beyond."

More here.