China extends deadline for mapping license application

China extends deadline for mapping license application

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Beijing, China: Companies including Google and Microsoft have more time to bring their online mapping services in line with Chinese regulations after the country’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping extended the license application deadline. “We will give warnings to service providers that fail to get a license by March 31 and will take administrative actions against them after July 1,” said the bureau in an e-mail reply to China Daily. That means companies such as Google and Microsoft, which have not yet applied for a license, will get an additional six months to do so. Earlier, the bureau had set the end of 2010  as the deadline for license applications.

The bureau introduced a regulation in May requiring companies operating online mapping services in China to apply for a license to continue business, citing national security. That put Google and Microsoft in uncertain positions as their online mapping services have attracted millions of Chinese users.

Ji Chendong, an analyst with research firm Frost & Sullivan, said that China has entered its “golden phase” for online map services and next year’s sales revenue will exceed 2.5 billion yuan (USD376 million) with 150 million users.

In September, the bureau gave licenses to 31 companies including Nokia, Baidu, Alibaba, Sina and Tencent. The bureau said Google and Microsoft have not yet applied for licenses.

Marsha Wang, Spokeswoman for Google China said, “We are examining the regulations to understand their impact on our map products in China”. On the other hand, Anderson Liu, General Manager of MSN China, Microsoft’s Chinese joint venture that runs the company’s online businesses including Hotmail and the Bing search engine, said, “Microsoft is in the process of applying for a license”.

It is unclear whether the bureau’s decision to extend the deadline has anything to do with an official online mapping service it launched recently. Since then, the bureau is under great pressure as the service, called Map World, has been criticised for using the same satellite images as Google Maps, observes China Daily. The bureau told China Daily that Map World will be free to the public, like Google Maps are. But it will charge fees for corporate users once the service is put into commercial use.

Source: China Daily