Telstra mobile - lat/long with a phone call

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 20:28
ThreadID: 19125 Views:4018 Replies:9 FollowUps:10
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Pinched (unashamedly) from the Overlander forum - thought it was pretty cool.


Send an SMS from a Telstra mobile to 171 5678 (LOST).

You'll get a return SMS with a lat/long location in decimal degrees format.

So far it's been fairly inaccurate, up to 1.4km out, but other have reported it's been down to 100m.

This could be useful if you're in mobile coverage somewhere in the bush and lost, as the SMS you get could then be sent elsewhere. I wouldn't want to be in a situation where you were relying on that for help though. But it will happen, last year for example we were searching for people lost in a forest who had no idea of their location but did have mobile coverage, so even narrowing it down to a 2km square would have been good.
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Reply By: David Au - Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 21:23

Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 21:23
It gives you the location of the GSM tower, not your location.
It only works with GSM not CDMA

Never take anything for fact on the Overlander forum it is filled full with wee willie wonkers and the chief wonker gregor who calls himself a 'journalist'??? LOL
Overlander magazine is not even good enough for toilet paper.
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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 21:54

Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 21:54
Gee David - thanks for your informative reply.
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Follow Up By: Eric from Cape York Connections - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 06:44

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 06:44
It can at least give accurate travel info and dosnt promote stuffing the bush like a monthly type mag .

All the best
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Follow Up By: Steve L - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 11:56

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 11:56
Dave (sorry, Ozi).

Knowing your past on the Overlander forum (and that your many aliases are banned, and keep getting banned as you try again and again to access the forum), your personal attack is fairly petty.

Why do you keep coming back to Overlander if it is as bad as you suggest?
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Reply By: Glenno - Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 23:15

Thursday, Jan 06, 2005 at 23:15
Im on Telstra GSM, Hanging off "The Gap Resivour" tower in Brisbane.

It returned:

-27.436736, 152.948917

If thats not the location of the tower and is the location of my house then there is a free beer to the first exploroz person to turn up on my door step after 9am tomorow.

Out of interest, if anyone has a Brisbane map in their mapping system, could you let me know where that coordinate is? I believe the Resivour is on Payne Road in the Gap (if the map is that detailed).
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Follow Up By: Fusion - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:26

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:26
G'day Glenno,

I had a quick look at the co-ordinates, and they're at least .5 kms from Payne Rd.


I've uploaded a map to our server. On it I've marked the co-ordinates with an 'X' surrounded by a circle. On the bottom left of the map you'll see I've marked the start of Payne Rd.

Hope that helps.


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Follow Up By: Member - Brian (Gold Coast) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:28

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:28

Don't know where the tower is... but I found your place!!! :-))
About 1.5 k's from Payne Rd... 40 or so metres from the end of your street, if your street is Gundara or at the end of your street if your street is Narambi.....

Does that get me a beer??? LOL... I can't make it up there today... maybe next time we're in Brisvegas!!
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Follow Up By: Glenno - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 10:18

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 10:18
Thanks Fusion,

That is nowhere near my house, but i do know there is a tower there! Answered my question as to if it ws an Optus or Telstra tower.


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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 10:25

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 10:25
OK Glenno - that's kind of answered the big question.......
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Reply By: Member - Brian (Gold Coast) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:31

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:31
Interestingly, I tried this just now, but got the "Message sending failed" message... several times. Is this because I am with Optus?? Does it only work with Telstra phones??? or is it just another "one-of-those-things"????? LOL...

I would think this a very handy service personally!
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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:52

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 09:52
Brian - yes, from what I'm led to believe, it only works on Telstra GSM. Apparently it is all part of a service that Telstra is trialling called "LBS", or Location Based Services. It's ultimate intention (always marketing-based!!!) is to deliver location-specific services to you.

Also, I have heard (Note: I said "I have heard"... nothing more.....) that the system uses a predictive locator which estimates your distance from as many cell masts as it can by monitoring signal strength to any or all of those masts in reasonable proximity. Sounds logical to me. I surmise that the system will work in the city areas better, as their are more masts per square kilometer in city areas than out bush.

I too reckon it would be a handy thing to have as a backup..... as long as you had your paper topo's with you ;)

I can see that Telstra would be able to directly access Sensis' map data (they just bought the major mapping companies in some states) and this could deliver a street (UBD) address to you instead of straight coordinates.

Pretty cool anyway....
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Reply By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 10:31

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 10:31

(Looks like telstra is using the simpler network-based version rather than the more accurate TDOA - read on for an explaination)

Lost on LBS?

The location of wireless devices is a fundamental element of wireless networks and an asset that has huge potential. Location based services (LBS) in the US were pushed by the Federal Communications Commission's mandatory rule for operators to locate wireless emergency callers or e-911 services. Now the market potential for location-based services is rich with commercial services for global markets.

Location-based services are destined to be successful, because they serve both consumers and wireless network operators. For consumers, LBS promises more personalised services and better communication capabilities. For network operators, location-based services help differentiate their services, increase network efficiency and create pricing flexibility.

The technology behind LBS can basically be divided into three components:

The Position or Location Determining Technology;

The Middleware or the Mobile Location Services Engine, which provides a platform on which applications can be launched and accessed by end-users and can also collect and maintain information (see Figure 1);

The applications and content development platforms, which are responsible for the generation of the location relevant content to be delivered to the end-user.
Position determining technology

Two fundamentally different system architectures allow mobile systems to pinpoint the location of subscribers - network-based systems and handset-based systems. There are also technologies that are a hybrid of the two.

In a network-based solution, the network computes the position. No hardware or software computation takes place in the end-device. These techniques thus, work with legacy phones. Cell-ID is the only location determinant technology already commercially deployed. The technique basically determines the location according to the strongest base station signal the end-device receives and thus the approximate position of the user. The accuracy of this technique depends on how closely the cells are located. This is the technique NTT-DoCoMo and J-phone in Japan have been using to provide some sort of LBS applications since 1999 and it works well there because the base stations are relatively close together.

TDOA or time difference of arrival technique basically uses geometry or triangulation using the angle-of-arrival to determine the location. The location measurement units, collocated with the carrier's base stations derive the angle of arrival and time difference of arrival of a mobile unit's signal. Then the mobile's position is determined, using inputs from multiple LBS subsystems, which supplies the position to external users. Despite multipath problems which cause potential for overlap that can result in reduced accuracy, TDOA is touted as the choice for analogue telephones and is preferred for its relatively low installation cost.
Handset-based systems

Handset-based systems are those that use hardware or software changes in the handset to locate its position. The most common of the handset-based technologies is GPS.

Global positioning system (GPS) consists of 24 operational satellites in six circular orbits that lie in non-synchronous orbits at inclinations of 55 degrees, 20,200 km above the earth. There are currently two 'public' GPS systems. The NAVSTAR system is owned by the United States and is managed by the Department of Defence. The Russian Federation owns the GLONASS system.

The GPS satellites are used to calculate the position of a GPS receiver on or above the surface of the earth by applying simple geometry, together with computing algorithms that assist the receiver in determining which satellites to use, thereby resolving any ambiguity related to location. The major drawbacks of GPS are that it is expensive and also that its performance can be compromised indoors or in high-density urban areas.
Hybrid systems

Hybrid systems are those that incorporate a combination of network- and handset-based technology.

Enhanced observed time difference (EOTD) is a time difference of arrival technology solution that measures the apparent time differences and received time of signals transmitted from the network to the handset. A fair amount of calculation happens in the handset that needs to detect and measure the time of arrival data from three sites. This technology is fairly accurate and for digital GSM operators, the network infrastructure as well as handset upgrade cost is minimal.

Assisted GPS (AGPS) GPS requires a host of complex calculations before determining the latitude and longitude of the user. In AGPS solution, the network provides the handset with additional bits of data that allow the handset to lock onto satellites with greater alacrity, meaning that it is presumed to be the most accurate of all PDTs.

Each technological approach - network-based, handset-based and hybrid - sacrifices desired qualities to gain an advantage in another. Network-based solutions such as TDOA do not require changes in handsets, making it easier and cheaper to implement. The hybrid techniques are far more accurate and have been widely adopted, however the up-front investment is greater. Handset-based techniques have a major advantage in that they help to overcome privacy issues and concerns because the location information is computed and stored in the end device.

Ultimately whichever location positioning determining technology the operator chooses to use depends on what best meets business objectives, cost constraints, and desired accuracy level.

The success of location-based service offerings will depend on how well these three players, in conjunction with the network operator, bundle the services and juggle initial growing pains to meet user expectations.

For further information contact EdgeMatrix Pty Ltd
AnswerID: 91743

Reply By: Member - Peter- Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 11:13

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 11:13
Likewise, out of interest, I plotted the lat and long received after SMSing (assuming GDA94) and found it to be about 200m to the north east of my actual position (in Milton, Bris.). There is no tower at that position, so it seems to be using some sort of interpolation to arrive at the lats and longs. Could be a useful service.
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Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 11:19

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 11:19
Peter - that's certainly interesting! Maybe they are using TDOA ....

Now I just wish that Orange mobile worked.... then again.... I have a GPS ;)
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Reply By: Wisey (NSW) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 18:09

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 18:09
Hi Chrispy,

will this work for other carriers ( non telstra) that connect to telstra when out of their "normal" service area? eg Vodaphone, optus etc

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Reply By: Member - Ray C (QLD) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 19:55

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 19:55
Just become a member here so this is the first communication with real people, apart from others in the 4WD community.
Since that horrible word SENSIS (surprise, surprise, a subsiduary of Telstra) has been mentioned in this thread do you know what their costs are?
Just let me say they are horrendous, particularly if you use the service frequently.
By law, Telstra have to provide a FREE drectory service (at least while they are still partly owned by the government, after that who knows).
The number for this free service is "1223". Try it, it works

And remember, Nostalgia is a thing of the past
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Reply By: Member - Brian (Gold Coast) - Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 20:23

Friday, Jan 07, 2005 at 20:23
I got hold of a Telstra mobile and tried this, then checked the co-ordinates against my map software and got the tower about 1.5k's from my house. As mentioned earlier, this could be very useful if you're lost or injured and at least have GSM coverage. You could give your co-ordinates to lessen the search area. Hope they expand it to cover other networks.... for this reason I keep my wifes phone on Telstra.
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