New Delhi, Mar 15: The government and telecom service providers were heading towards a virtual deadlock on the issue of telecom companies providing facilities to meet the May 31 deadline of tracking caller locations on real-time basis.
While the service providers, represented by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Association of Unified Service Providers of Indian (AUSPI) opposed the move, the government showed reluctance to postpone the deadline beyond May 31 and directed the companies to strictly adhere to the time for having location-based servers in place.
The move comes in the wake of concern expressed by the Home Ministry to the Telecom Department over the non-availability of locations of mobiles phones as well as call details indicating the place from where it was made. A high-level meeting was held today in this regard.
Director General of COAI Rajan Mathew said the view point of all service providers was jointly put up with AUSPI before the government in which "we have indicated that the requirements of the government were not possible".
While the government has toughened its stand of not budging beyond the deadline, the operator associations said it would press for extension as various operators were still conducting field trials.
The meeting, which was chaired by Member Technology J K Roy in the DoT and officials from Telecom and Home Ministries, conveyed to operators that they should "strictly adhere" to the May 31 deadline for implementation of location-based services and seek from them the latest status report on including them in call detail records submitted to law enforcement agencies, official sources said.
The Telecom operators have termed the requirement put forth by the ministry as "very stringent" and "highly expensive" requiring massive exercise due to existing topography, technology and "non GPS handsets".
They have told the telecom department that none of the existing network equipment supports location details to be provided with call detail records and hence DoT should not insist on the same, they said.
According to them, as per license agreement only tower identity, and not its coordinates, is needed in the call detail records which has already been provided to the law enforcement agencies as and when required.
The Home Ministry had demanded that all service providers must be able to provide by May 31 the location details of their consumers with certain degree of accuracy and these should be part of call detail records in the form of longitude and latitude, and coordinates of cells sites, which can be made available to security agencies, they said.
The purpose is to track down the location from where the call had originated with an accuracy of 30-90 per cent in an area of 50-300 m depending on the population and area.
According to the official sources, the home ministry has asked them to first acquire capabilities for the specified numbers given to them and within three years the location details "shall be part of call record for all mobile calls".
Some of the industry members have said although they are in talks with various vendors, there are conflicting views even among them. They have conveyed that dates are also too near to be practical for desired accuracies.
The industry is discussing the matter with the Telecom Department and MHA on the requirement of location-based call detail records and accuracy with respect to technical and commercial feasibility and "alternative solutions" and some conclusion would be reached, the sources said.