The Cellular Operators Association of India, a body representing primarily incumbent GSM operators in the country, has said in a statement that the a new simplified Equipment Security Agreement, which mandates the implementation of Location Based Infrastructure, could cost the Indian telecom operators approximately $5 billion. According to the COAI, the new Equipment Security Agreement requires operators to maintain location information up to accuracy of 50 meters for customers specified by Security Agencies to 50 meters by 1st June 2012, and all customers by June 2014.

The information that the Indian government was looking to improve location accuracy is not new – MediaNama had reported this last year, and from what we know, the Indian government has been looking at this since 26th October 2009. MediaNama is still awaiting a response from the DoT, to a Right To Information (RTI) request filed on April 26th 2011. Among other LBS related data, we had requested for copies of all LBS related notifications sent to Access Service Providers.

Note: We haven’t been able to locate the new Equipment Security Agreement on the DoT’s website. If anyone has a copy, please mail it across to nikhil at medianama dot com.

The COAI raises two concerns:

– The cost for this should not be borne only by the telecom operators: “Discussions with providers of LBS solutions have also raised serious concerns on the feasibility of meeting government’s strict requirements.  Based on, the technical standards for accuracy levels as defined by the Government, the scale of implementation, the execution of the project and the complexities involved there is no solution at present that meets the DoT mandate.” There’s also no way of ascertaining whether this $5 billion approximation is accurate or not.

– Consumer backlash on privacy: But the COAI raises another, important point: “Further, the industry is concerned about a back lash from customers on privacy as a result of a lack of clear policy guidelines on the matter.”

MediaNama Readers concerned about privacy should also take a look at our report on the Home Ministry’s Communications monitoring tender, where there are clear indications that location based information will be important.

On a more positive note: improved location accuracy from cell towers means that location based services are more accurate: this could lead to existing location based services not being solely dependent on GPS satellites, hence lower battery consumption on handsets. Additionally, telecom operators could launch proximity based services, especially couponing services.