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FCC to mandate GPS in all phones by 2018

Phone manufacturers will have to add GPS capabilities to every phone model by 2018, according to the FCC (via TechCrunch). While those of us with smartphones already have GPS, many feature phones do not, instead relying on cell-tower triangulation and other methods to determine location at any given time. While Assisted GPS will still be usable, actual GPS functionality will be required for all phones in seven years time. The FCC is also quick to point out that 85 percent of phones would already have GPS by 2018 without its new rules.

The GPS requirement is so emergency 911 responders can track a caller’s location to more accurately send assistance. Often in traumatic times victims may not know exactly where they are.

Of course, what we don’t know is exactly when the next-generation emergency 911 service will be activated (it will include texting, photos), when cell phones without GPS will be shut off, and why the FCC is giving manufacturers 7 years to comply with this. At the speed the mobile world iterates, the FCC could require that GPS be in every handset within the next 3-4 years and no industry heads would explode. Perhaps after all the backlash over its net neutrality regulation, the agency is backing down a bit.