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FCC to require GPS in all phones by 2018

News by Dan Seifert on Wednesday October 05, 2011.

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The Federal Communications Commission has published a new rule that mandates all cellphones support true GPS positioning by the year 2018. Many smartphones already have GPS chips inside of them today, but the vast majority of feature phones still rely on cell tower triangulation for location services.

The FCC wants all phones to support GPS positioning so that 911 emergency responders can locate people quicker and more accurately. The agency says that by 2018, 85 percent of phones on the market will have the required GPS support already, even if it is not mandated. The new rule also covers VoIP-only handsets.

It is interesting that the FCC is requiring true GPS positioning, because with today's GPS technology, it takes a long time to get a pinpoint lock on a location, and it all but fails when a user is indoors or amidst tall buildings, like in a city. The cell tower triangulation method works in those scenarios, and it aids the GPS systems in locking in a more accurate position in less time. The new rules do not state when devices that use the cell tower triangulation method but don't have true GPS will be forced out of use, but any new devices from 2018 will be required to have GPS support. [via TechCrunch]

Update: We have received clarification on this policy from the FCC itself. The clarification is as follows: "The FCC is not requiring that all mobiles be equipped with GPS in 2018 for purposes of providing E911. Rather, not before 2019, on a date still to be determined, carriers will have to meet the more stringent location accuracy standards that now apply to those carriers using a handset solution for E911, and they may choose which solution to use: handset-based (meaning a GPS-type chip in the phone), network-based (meaning through network software and equipment), or a hybrid (which is how the technology seems to be evolving)."

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Dan Seifert
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.

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