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11/9/2006
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Youth-Oriented Helio Launches Wireless Location Service

Helio's service isn't cheap. The latest phone costs $225, and its service starts at $65 a month for 500 minutes and unlimited data services.

Helio, a wireless service provider that caters to young adults, has launched location-based services that enable subscribers to broadcast their whereabouts to a select group of friends.

In addition, the Los Angeles-based company unveiled a mobile phone that subscribers would need to take advantage of the new services, which combine global positioning technology with Google's mapping service for mobile devices, a company spokesman said Thursday. Samsung makes the new phone, called Drift, which is the third phone built exclusively for Helio.

Helio, known in the industry as a mobile virtual network operator, licenses bandwidth on the Sprint network. The company targets people 18 to 32 years old who are early adopters of technology and are likely to have a personal page on MySpace.

"We're really looking at the social-networking crowd," Helio spokesman Rick Heineman said. The company, which launched six months ago, does not release subscriber numbers.

Helio's service is not cheap. The latest phone costs $225, and its service starts at $65 a month for 500 minutes and unlimited data services. "We're a premium brand," Heineman said. "We're not trying to be the low-price leader."

The latest service and phone allow subscribers to broadcast their location to a maximum of 25 Helio subscribers. The location and nearest address is shown on a map generated by Google.

People must opt in to a particular group, and choose to broadcast their location before others can see them. "Control is 100 percent in their hands," Heineman said.

Other location-based services include traffic reports for more than 30 major U.S. metropolitan areas, street directions, local search for businesses, and satellite imagery of locations.

Helio does not sell advertising on its service, but the company has left that option open. It also plans to continue building GPS-based services, which the company believes is the "next wave" in the wireless industry, Heineman said. "The essence of mobile is life on the move."

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