The telecom department has exempted feature phone makers from installing global positioning system (GPS) which helps track the location of a device, saving buyers an almost 30 percent increase in costs.
The Department of Telecommunications, which said in April last year that all mobile phones must have GPS capability, has now scaled down the mandate and made it applicable to only smartphones, according to a notification dated November 23 seen by ET.
As per ET Telecom, DoT said “With effect from 1st January 2018, no smartphone handset manufacturing company shall sell new smartphone mobile handset in India without the facility of identifying the location through satellite-based GPS,”. Handset makers welcomed the move, saying it would protect the feature phone market from a price increase.
Pankaj Mohindroo, president of the Indian Cellular Association, which represents handset makers including Apple, Samsung Electronics, Xiaomi and Micromax said that it’s a big relief for the industry. The association had been lobbying with the government to change its stance.
The government first mandated the introduction of panic buttons on all phones from January 1, 2017, and GPS location facilities from January 1, 2018, to allow women in distress to easily alert their near and dear ones. The first mandate has been implemented by all handset makers from March this year. Smartphones already have inbuilt GPS capability.
Introducing the GPS location service in feature phones would have pushed up their costs by as much as Rs 400 and would have hurt sales of these devices, which are mostly priced between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500, industry officials had said. If the additional cost was passed on to buyers, the selling price would have increased by at least 30 percent, the association added.
Almost 400 million people in India still use feature phones and the segment has been aided largely by Reliance Jio Infocomm’s 4G Volte feature phone, which then prompted Indian competitors to follow suit and launch their own versions. A recent study by Mobile Marketing Association and Kantar IMRB suggests that 85 percent of feature phone consumers do not wish to upgrade to smartphones. It remains to be seen whether the government will mandate other tracking tools in feature phones.