DoT insists on GPS in feature phones, prices may rise by 30 per cent – Economic Times
NEW DELHI: The department of telecom (DoT) has mandated that all mobile phones should have global positioning system (GPS) that helps track a phone from January 1, 2018, rejecting a plea from handset makers that adding the facility on feature phones would raise the cost by at least 30 per cent.
In a communication to the handset making industry, the government has argued that ensuring safety and security of women was of ‘utmost importance’ and made it clear that no further “representations” from the industry would be “entertained” in the matter.
“Regarding GPS facility in feature phone, DoT had stated that GPS is the main tool regarding location details of the subscriber in case of emergency, so government has decided to implement in all mobile phone handsets from January 1, 2018, in a positive manner,” DoT said in a letter dated July 4 to Indian Cellular Association, which represents most handset makers in the country.
“It is re-iterated that all mobile phone handset makers should adhere to the 2nd part of the notification dated April 22, 2016 for implementation of GPS facility in all mobile phone handsets sold in India from January 1 2018. The representation in this regards will not be entertained in the future,” the department added.
The government had sought installation of a panic button and GPS location facilities on all phones from January 1, 2017 and January 1, 2018, respectively, both aimed at providing women access to alert their near and dear ones in times of duress to ensure safety. All handset makers – from March this year – complied with the panic button requirement as the cost impact had been accommodated within the cost of the devices.
However, handset makers petitioned the government on introducing the location service in feature phones as it would push up cost by as much as Rs 400, hurting sales. These phones are mostly priced between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500, experts said. If handset makers pass on the cost, the end consumer would have to pay at least 30% more.
India has an installed base of more than 400 million feature phones, as per Counterpoint Research, and in 2017 about 130 million more are expected to be shipped. The count could rise further if Reliance Jio’s 4G Volte feature phones, potentially priced at Rs 500 apiece, hit the markets within this quarter.
The cellular association said that it would still lobby with the government to see reason behind their request, though the government has re-iterated its stand. Handset makers had sought the telecom regulator’s help in March to this effect as well.
Handset makers had suggested using an alternate method of triangulation of telecom towers to detect location even when there’s no data connection available.
But DoT argued that Public Safety Awareness Point operator – part of the central system to handle distress calls on emergency number 112 – cannot accurately detect the location using the triangulation method as effectively as it can with GPS.