HEADLINES:
November 20 2017
‘GPS facility to raise handset costs’
04 August 2017

Ministry calls for meeting with industry as phone makers flag 40%-50% rise in cost of feature phones

With the industry raising a red flag over the government's decision to make GPS mandatory in all mobile phones, including features phones, the Telecom Ministry will hold a meeting with handset makers shortly to review the policy's implications.

In a meeting with Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan on Wednesday, mobile phone companies pointed out that adding the GPS — or the Global Positioning System, a feature that enables tracking the location of a device — to a feature phone is not only technically challenging, but will also lead to at least a 40%-50% jump in the price of such devices.

‘Seeking inputs’

The government has made it mandatory to install GPS in all mobile phones that will be sold in India, January 1, 2018 onwards with an aim to locate subscribers in emergency situations.

Asked if the government would review the decision, Ms. Sundararajan told The Hindu: “We will be sitting with the industry soon… listen to their objections in detail and then take a decision.”

In the meeting on Wednesday, a representative from HMD Global, which holds the rights to market the Nokia brand globally, said, “the whole industry is facing a huge challenge” with regard to the enabling of GPS in feature phones.

The representative said that more that 40% of the mobile market still comprises features phones which are sold at an average of about ₹1,500. “To add GPS component to that is not only technically challenging as the device will need more power and memory, but it will also increase the cost by 40-50%. It means that we are taking away the connectivity from people…. to give them something that really is adding no value,” he said, reasoning that without data, the GPS function won’t help.

“We don’t know the purpose…. I think GPS in feature phones is a big mistake,” the representative said, requesting the Telecom Secretary to “look into” the issue.

A representative from home-grown firm Intex also said the policy needed a fresh look as it would increase costs and would not be of any use as data connectivity is not there across the country. “The capacity of the chip and the memory of the phone is not adequate at that cost level…It is something that needs review.”

In a letter to the government last year, the Indian Cellular Association had said feature phones retail for ₹500-700 for which bill of material (BOM) used was to the tune of $5 (about ₹330-₹350).

Adding GPS in such phones would increase the production cost to $9-11 per unit, it had said. An industry representative said that the telecom ministry may meet handset makers over the issue as early as Friday.

 

 

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