The Indian Government has asked Indian telecom operators to sharpen their location awareness; in a notification dated 26th October 2009, the Department of Telecom has conveyed its decision that Location Based Service be implemented in India, with a location accuracy of less than 100 metres, to be gradually improved to 50 metres. Sources inform us that a reminder notice was sent to telecom operators a few weeks ago.

The notification, a copy of which is with MediaNama, seeks a service-area-wise time-frame for implementing this, with priority being given to “the States of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and the North-East Service Area”.

A few points to note here:

— Network Capability: Such level of accuracy may be possible in cities, which have a high density deployment of cellular towers. However, telecom operator sources we spoke to suggest that it’s virtually impossible. Given the sparse deployment of cellular towers outside main cities, one can only expect an accuracy of a radius of 500 meters. Additionally, some older telecom networks may not even be in a position to support this.
— National Security Vs Privacy: From the states deemed to be a priority for implementation, it appears that the objective is to be able to accurately track “anti-national” elements. However, with the implementation of the Unique ID, particularly when linked to a cell phone number, such a system may be prone to misuse; the Government and telecom operators able to accurately track the movements of any individual; a case of big brother watching. As with call intercepts, we think there needs to be a legal sanction routed through the judiciary for such a move.
— Location Based Services: Amidst issues of national security and privacy, one should keep in mind that if implemented, the telecom networks will be location aware and accurate: thus a platform will be available for launching targeted location based services. So far, BSNL and Airtel have launched location aware products.

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