In a move to strengthen public safety measures, the Indian Ministry of Communications has recently published the Indian Wireless Telegraphy (Cell Broadcasting Service for Disaster Alerts) Rules, 2023. The rules, which came into effect on April 10, 2023, require manufacturers to equip smartphones and feature phones with specific capabilities to receive and display cell broadcast messages, particularly those related to disaster alerts.
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Mandated Features for Smartphone and Feature Phone Manufacturers
The key provisions of the rules include defining essential terms and mandating certain requirements for mobile devices. Within six months of the rules' implementation, manufacturers are prohibited from producing or selling smartphones or feature phones in India without the following features:
- Cell Broadcast Support: All devices must have mandatory support to receive cell broadcast messages in both English and Hindi languages.
- Message Storage: Devices must be capable of storing received cell broadcast messages for at least twenty-four hours, considering the memory capacity of feature phones.
- Display and Acknowledgment: Cell broadcast messages must remain displayed on the screen until acknowledged by the user.
- Alert Features: Devices must provide alert sound, vibration, and light duration for a minimum of thirty seconds.
- Customer Awareness: Manufacturers must include cell broadcast capability in the feature lists and user manuals to enhance customer awareness.
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Future Requirements for Cell Broadcast Alerts
Furthermore, after nine months of the rule's commencement, manufacturers must ensure that smartphones and feature phones can receive extreme and severe cell broadcast alert messages. There is also a provision for exploring the automatic read-out of cell broadcast messages in an Indian accent, in English and Hindi languages, subject to memory limitations.
In a subsequent phase, which begins twelve months after the implementation of the rules, it will be mandatory for smartphones and feature phones to support cell broadcast messages and automatic read-out features in all Indian languages as per the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India. This ensures that vital information reaches users effectively and inclusively across different regions and linguistic backgrounds.
Call for Compatibility of Existing Devices
Additionally, the rules require manufacturers of mobile phone handsets and operating systems to explore, within six months of the rule's commencement, the feasibility of enabling cell broadcast message reception and auto read-out features in smartphones sold in India within the four years prior. This effort aims to extend the coverage and accessibility of disaster alerts to a broader range of devices.
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Enhancing Disaster Alert Capabilities in Mobile Phones
The Ministry's initiative seeks to enhance public safety by ensuring that mobile devices are well-equipped to receive vital information during critical situations.
In a recent advisory, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has urged the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and the Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology (MAIT) to take necessary measures to ensure the availability of the inbuilt FM Radio receiver feature in mobile phones.
These regulations pave the way for a more efficient and inclusive system of delivering disaster alerts to smartphone and feature phone users across the country.