DoT Is Forcing Telcos To Install Expensive Monitoring Equipment

Department of Telecommunications (DoT)  is arm-twisting all telecom service providers to install expensive Monitoring Equipment. Known as ‘Location Based Servers’ (LBS), these will be instrumental in enhancing the security of the nation by giving the security agencies ways to track calls with accurate location. Apparently, DoT too has faced flak for not being stricter in the implementation by Union Home Ministry.

Every cell phone can be tracked using the co-ordinates obtained by the cell-phone towers to which the phone is synced. However, such information is very crude & often unreliable. Cell-phone towers may be few in number thereby increasing the radius of search beyond practicality. Additionally, the perpetrators might be in the ‘roaming’ thereby increasing the difficulty level to track the exact whereabouts. LBS will be bring down that radius to 50-300 meters depending on the population and area. Though the government has offered a very liberal accuracy requirement ranging from 30-90% for the said area, it will nevertheless be very expensive, cite the telcos.

Mobile companies are  already reeling under immense competitive pressure which forces them to keep the tariffs low. Besides non-performing assets in the form of dormant numbers, they have the additional burden of coughing up huge sumps of money for the re-auctioning of the 2G spectrum essential for basic GSM telephony. Matters simply don’t end there. With 3G underperforming & constant policy amendments, the telecom players are finding it extremely difficult to have a sustainable operation in India.

Under such bleak conditions, they feel it is unfair to force them to install costly monitoring equipment. Besides, some companies did offer a viable & cost effective option of deploying ‘Enhanced Cell Global Identity’ (ECGI) system that could cut down costs but it was outrightly rejected citing non-conformance to the security requirements. DOT has clearly conveyed to the companies, that their ‘Telecommunication Engineering Centre’ had studied the LBS closely and declared it fit for installation by the operators.

Nation’s security is of paramount importance & should take precedence over costs & other factors. However, the Government should explore multiple options which shouldn’t be so cost-prohibitive that telcos think its unhealthy for their business. What do you think?

Cellphone Tower Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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