In a letter dated January 12, 2010, Bharti Airtel had told India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that it could cost the company as much as Rs 4500 crore to bring location accuracy down to 100 meters, MediaNama has learned. In response to a Right To Information request filed with the DoT, MediaNama has received copies of notices sent out by the department related to improving location accuracy down to 50 meters, and Bharti Airtel’s response to the Department. Airtel’s letter is the only one we have received – perhaps they’re the only ones who responded to that notice.

Airtel had said (in January 2010) that they had the capability to measure location accuracy up to 500 meters for urban areas, and 1000 meters in rural areas, and that a location accuracy of below 100 meters would be achievable only with GPS enabled handsets, which is a challenge. It offered the government two solutions:

– The upgradation to ECGI, which can offer accuracy up to 300 meters would take a year, since changes would have to be made for 1 lakh BTS sites, and the cost would be Rs 25-30 crores.
– An LMU – Location measurement unit module – can be installed in each BTS site, at the cost of $10,000 each, which would be around Rs 4500 crores. The company said it could examine the feasibility of this if Government support in funding the cost of implementation and upgrading the network was available.

MediaNama has also received two other notification from the Department of Information Techonology. The first, dated 26th October 2009, requests all access service providers to indicate service area-wise timeframe for implementing LBS, with priority given to Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and the North East service area. The second is a reminder about the first notice.

Scans of the RTI responses we received:


What we haven’t received, though, is a copy of the guidelines which the COAI mentioned last week, which mandated the 50 meter rule. The cost that was estimated by the COAI was around $5 billion, which is Rs 22500 crore. For more on this, please read:

New Telecom Equipment Policy Mandates Location Based Services Accuracy Of 50Mtrs: COAI
Indian Government Asks Telecom Operators To Sharpen Location Awareness; LBS
What The Home Ministry’s Communications Monitoring Tender Tells Us