Berg Insight, a business intelligence company, has forecasted growth in the revenues earned from the location-based services (LBS) of Europe’s mobile devices over the next four years.

Part of the Mobile Location-Based Services – Seventh Edition report, Berg Insight predicts European revenues could reach $825 million in 2017, a 21% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) based on 2012’s $325 million.

In comparison, the report revealed that the North American LBS market could grow at a CAGR of 9% from $835 million in 2012 to $1.3 billion in 2017. It also stated that local search, social networking and navigation services are the top application categories based on the number of active users.

Berg’s estimates show that 40% of all mobile subscribers in Europe use some form of location-enhanced application on a regular basis. US and Canada residents are more frequent users, with 50% taking advantage of LBS at least monthly.

Smartphones Are Top LBS Enabler

Unsurprisingly, smartphones are deemed the most important enabler of LBS by the report. Europe’s install base is now at 45% of the total handsets in circulation, less than in North America where it has surpassed 55%.

In Europe mobile networks have less influence on consumer habits compared to North America and, according to André Malm, senior analyst at Berg Insight, a new trend for smartphone ecosystems is making its presence felt.

“Mobile operators still play a more central role in North America than in Europe, marketing branded services to both consumer and enterprise customers,” Malm said.

“However, the operators’ central role in the LBS ecosystem is now being challenged by the smartphone ecosystems that bundle key location based services, and give developers access to location data and distribution channels in the form of on-device app stores.”

Malm feels the big mobile operators are adapting their business models to include ‘network-based bulk location data for advertising and analytics’, which can be seen in Vodafone’s purchase of Vouchercloud or the networks joint m-commerce operation, Weve.