With what appears to be unusual urgency, India’s Department of Telecom (DoT) has pushed telecom operators twice, over the last 20 days, to submit compliance reports on the accuracy of location sharpness achieved by them so far. Read this from 30th December and this from 15th January(both pdf’s). The issue of the government forcing telecom operators to increase location sharpness by installing LBS equipment has been on the radar since 26th October 2009, as we had reported earlier.

In response to a RTI filed with the DoT, MediaNama had received copies of the notices issued by the DoT to the telecom operators, along with Bharti Airtel’s response to the notice expressing concern over the high cost of installation (Rs. 4500 crores) and consumer privacy issues. DoT had asked telcos to install LBS systems with an accuracy of 50 metres in February last year after they failed to meet the deadline in mid-2012. Telcos had asked the ministry to finance the setting up, which was ignored by DoT. Now it appears that the DoT held a meeting on the 22nd of August 2013 to determine the steps to be taken, and had asked telecom operators to submit a compliance report was to be used “for deciding the methodology of measurement, and for preparing the roadmap for implementation of accuracies (sic).”

As of 30th December 2013, TATA Teleservices was the only telecom operator to have submitted a compliance report. By the 15th of January 2013, it appears that other telecom operators Vodafone India, MTNL, MTS (SSTL), Aircel, Uninor, Videocon, have submitted their report. This leaves Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, BSNL, Loop Telecom, HFCL and government owned telco BSNL

Issue of privacy: In the absence of privacy laws there is a high chance of such an infrastructure being misused so it is very important to pass laws that govern the use of data generated. Although, Bharati Airtel had raised concern over the issue of consumer privacy, the department has so far not responded to this particular concern. In fact, the Home Ministry’s Communications Monitoring Tender had clear indications of  that location based monitoring would be important. Also remember that location information could be an integral part of India’s Centralised Monitoring System for tracking citizens.

Timeline: How DoT has been trying to implement LBS

– Indian Government Plans Digital Central Monitoring System
– DoT Again Asks Telcos To Improve Location Sharpness; Privacy
– Telcos Fail To Meet Indian Govt’s Deadline To Implement LBS Accuracy Of 50 Mtrs: Report
– Airtel Had Estimated Cost Of LBS Rollout At Rs 4500 Crore For 100 Mtr Accuracy
– 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