The Department of Telecommunications has made Global Positioning Systems (GPS) mandatory in all mobile phones starting January 1, 2018, arguing that ensuring the safety and security of women was paramount. In a communication dated July 4 to handset makers, the government recognised GPS as a primary tool regarding location details of a subscriber in the case of an emergency and rejected the plea by handset makers saying that the move would make mobile phones costlier by 30 per cent.
"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 its communique to the Indian Cellular Association.
The DoT stressed that all mobile phone handset makers must adhere to its 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,” it said.
The government’s move follows a similar directive to mobile manufacturers to install a panic button in all mobile phones by January 2017. Handset makers had complied with it starting March this year.
Handset makers had petitioned the government arguing that the installation of GPS in feature phones, priced between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500, would push the cost by Rs 400, hitting sales. The government, however, rejected their argument on grounds that safety and security of women was of paramount importance.
Economic Times reported that handset makers had mooted 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, it said.
India has an estimated 400 million feature phones, with 130 million more expected to be shipped in 2017, according to Counterpoint Research.