Panic button a must for new mobile phones from January 2017

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 26, 2016 11:34 IST
In-built GPS navigation system will be mandatory for all phones with effect from January 1, 2018. (Representative photo)

Beginning next year, every cellphone will have a panic button.

From January 1, 2017, all mobile phones should have the button – the key “5” or “9” for feature phones, and an emergency call button in the keypad or a facility for short pressing the power button thrice, in case of smartphones, the Department of Telecommunications said in a notification on Monday.

When activated, a panic button will help users respond to emergency situations. The calls made from the panic button will be automatically routed to a law enforcement agency, such as the local police, the details of which are being worked out at the mobile operators’ end.

HT first reported on December 15, 2015 that the Centre is planning to come up with such a move.

Aimed mainly at the safety of women, the new rules also mandate all new feature phones and smartphones to have GPS-based location-identification facility.

“Technology is meant to make human life better, and for what better purpose to use it than for the security of women,” telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “I have taken a decision that from January 1, 2017, no cellphone can be sold without these provisions.”

However, the notification is silent on what happens to existing phones.

The new rule to put a mandatory panic button will come under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1993. At present, every country (except in the US) has an emergency 112 number configured on cellphones, which have to be enabled.

The government has already held consultations with industry representatives on the issue. “The entire telecom industry, mobile handset players and service providers stand behind the government in improving the security environment for women,” Pankaj Mohindroo, national president, Indian Cellular Association, a body of cellphone manufacturers, had told HT in December.

The concept of a device with a panic button feature was floated after the brutal gangrape of a paramedical student in Delhi four years ago.

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