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The DoT making GPS mandatory on all phones could mean fewer people can afford basic communication.

This year has been revolutionary in India. Firstly , the demonitisation then the Gst bill. India is taking huge steps in order to develop the nations economy. 

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has made it mandatory for all mobile phones sold in India, including feature phones to support GPS functionality from 1 January 2018. The requirement is for satellite based GPS chips, and using A-GPS based on telecom infrastructure for tracking a handset is not an option. The DoT has rejected a plea by the India Cellular Association (ICA) against the ruling, and has made it clear that it will not entertain any further discussion on the issue.

GPS mandatory on all phones could mean fewer people can afford basic communication.

The move aims to help improve security of women and increase accountability of the security forces as well. “Technology is solely meant to make human life better and what better than using it for the security of women?” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, after signing the order.

Essentially, feature phones (basically phones which don’t have a full fledged operation system like Android or iOS) will have to ensure the facility of the panic button by pressing numeric key — 5 or numeric key 9 — to enable an emergency call. So what does the order really mean for mobile manufacturers and for women’s safety? Insisting that all phones have GPS in-built is not a bad move by itself as it can help agencies locate someone in times of a crisis, quickly.

ICA National President Pankaj Mohindroo told the Press Trust of India, “The price of low-cost feature phones may rise by over 50 per cent as adding GPS system will require better configuration.”
If the prices of all feature phones go up, fewer people will buy one. Manufacturers have indicated that although the ruling will increase pressure on their margins, they will be able to include GPS functionality in all phones by the deadline. The mandatory inclusion of the GPS was a ruling made along with the requirement for a panic button on every device. For the safety of its users, especially women, mobile phones in the market are already shipping with panic buttons. Applications related to travel, including journey planners and ride hailing applications have integrated safety features in their offerings.

While the government has mandated a panic button, the infrastructure to provide help has a lot left to be desired. The helplines for women’s safety are not of much help. When the Government initially announced plans to make the panic button mandatory, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) released a statement indicating that a panic button would not be of much help on its own.

A number of mobile phones are created with deep understanding of the market, and the mandatory requirement for supporting a particular functionality may mean that some devices and models will not be available in India at all. One of the most celebrated feature phones released recently was the 2017 version of the Nokia 3310, which does not have a GPS feature. It looks like starting next year, feature phone models without a GPS chip, such as the Nokia 3310, will not be available in the market.

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