The government is likely to make GPS mandatory in feature phones by withdrawing an exemption it granted earlier, according to official sources. The move will enable the government to roll out panic button facility on mobile phones, aimed at helping women in distress. The government ordered all mobile manufacturers in 2016 to mandatorily provide panic button and Global Positioning System (GPS) facility on cell phones to help women in distress, but feature and non-smart phones were given exemption in November last year after manufacturers said it would raise the cost. "The telecom ministry has assured us that it will reverse its November order and restore the circular of 2016," a senior official of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) said. The WCD Ministry secretary met Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha and mobile manufacturers late last month and there was a heated exchange because of the opposition to the proposal from phone makers, the sources said. "While GPS could raise the cost of a phone by Rs 200, we feel people will be willing to pay extra.
It is in the interest of safety of people. We have seat belts and airbags in cars which raise costs but people pay for them as they are an essential safety feature," the official said. The issue has delayed the trial of panic button feature on phones, which was to start from January 26 in Uttar Pradesh. Several government officials have said that GPS on phones is a must for the panic button feature to be a success. GPS is known to be a much better way of tracking a phone user over alternative methods such as triangulation of mobile phone towers. They say that tracking phones through cell tower triangulation is not effective, particularly in rural areas where mobile towers are far apart and do not give a precise estimation of the location of a phone.