To enhance safety standards for mobile handsets, the Government is planning to change the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, to ensure all mobile devices, whether made in this country or abroad, display the specific absorption rate (SAR) value, measuring the radiation emitted by a cellphone, like the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) display.
At present, the SAR value is set at 1.6 watts a kg (w/kg) over a gramme of human tissue and the government will not permit selling of handsets, imported or domestically manufactured, above this level. This level was fixed in 2012. Previously, the SAR value for handsets was two w/kg over 1g of tissue.
In the proposed norms, companies will have to mention the actual SAR measurement value for a particular device and related information in the user manuals. Besides, when ‘*#07#’ is keyed in, handsets should display the maximum SAR level of the device, as mentioned in the user guide.
According to a recent discussion in the department of telecommunications (DoT), the government will include mobile phones within the definition of the word ‘telegraph’, so that all mobile handsets get certified safe after being screened at local labs. Currently, DoT cannot demand this compliance as mobile handsets are categorised as consumer goods and telegraph only covers the telecom network and infrastructure equipment.
The move comes at a time when the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been asked to finalise safety standards for mobile handsets in coordination with the Telecom Engineering Centre, technical arm of the DoT.
Legal enforcement of mobile standards under a (mobile operator’s) licence conditions cannot be done unless ITR is amended to include mobile phones within the definition of ‘telegraph’, according to the recent discussion. On the other hand, the DoT is also setting up a Telecom Testing & Security Certification centre that will finalise the testing norm and the BIS will be responsible for formulating product standards for mobile phones that will focus on both the safety and performance aspects. The BIS was engaged after Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had supported the mandatory disclosure of the SAR value of mobile handsets as a pre-condition for all future mobile handset imports into India.
According to the discussion, while all handsets sold in India should support hands free operation, the SAR value needs to be maintained and manufacturers will have to display the details on each device. On the other hand, booklets should have details of safety precautions. The Government will also enforce self declaration of handset makers for conformity to SAR level of mobile handsets and testing in International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation.
However, companies will be able to import one or two samples of each models of mobile handsets for research and development without SAR details, according to the discussion.