Indian Government asks manufacturers to include FM


The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) issued an advisory to all phone manufacturers in April of this year. The manufacturers were asked to make sure that wherever the mobile phone is equipped with an inbuilt FM radio receiver function or feature, that function or feature is not disabled or deactivated, and to include FM radio receivers in phones that don’t have them.

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The Ministry contended that the sharp decline in mobile phones with FM radio receivers had an impact on “not only the ability of the poor to get free FM radio services but also the government’s ability to disseminate real-time information during emergencies, disasters, and calamities.”

As the monsoon session of Parliament is underway, the government reiterated the importance of incorporating FM radio receivers in mobile phones. MeitY, in response to a question that was posed by Rajya Sabha MP Jaggesh on this feature, said, “The FM Radio is one of the communication links between the authorities and people in remote areas during natural disasters in addition to other electronic means of communication, inter alia, including cellular communication using mobile phones and television broadcasting.”

The advisory that was issued back in April noted that during India’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, it greatly benefited from the country’s extensive network of FM transmitters and FM radio. Further, the Ministry cited that, in accordance with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), radio broadcasting is one of the most potent and successful means to offer early warnings and inform the public to save lives during emergencies and disasters.

The IT Ministry’s advice was ambiguous over whether it wanted manufacturers to put radio receivers in smartphones as well or just in feature phones, which are more prevalent in rural and isolated areas. Higher-end smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel, no longer come with an FM radio receiver but instead let users stream radio via the internet.

Given the additional time and expense required during the manufacturing process as well as the additional space the radio receiver would take up in the internals of the phone, which have already been used for some other function or feature, it is unlikely that these companies will start including a radio receiver exclusively for their Indian models.

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Furthermore, it is unclear whether FM radios offer better disaster preparedness than cell network coverage. The coverage of All India Radio FM transmitters in the nation is 59% by geographical area and 68% by population, according to one of the parliamentary responses. As reported by the industry, mobile phone networks cover around 95% of the earth’s surface and 98% of its people. It’s unclear how FM radios will be more helpful during natural catastrophes since mobile networks have far better coverage than those devices.

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