When smartphones first came out, FM radio was a very popular feature. Now, however, most phones don’t have it, and when they do, it’s usually buried or turned off by default.
However, India’s Ministry of IT has made it clear that mobile phone manufacturers must ensure that all smartphones have FM radio functionality and are set to enable it by default.
India hopes that this will help bridge the digital divide and enable people in rural and remote areas to access radio services. FM radio has long been a mainstay of communication in India, and the government is now working to ensure that everyone has access to it.
FM radio is seen in India as both a source of entertainment and a reliable, affordable means of communication for emergency alerts. The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) suggests that the radio function of mobile phones should be allowed, as India’s Department of Information Technology has noted.
The Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and the Manufacturers of Information Technology of India (MAIT), which are responsible for monitoring and implementing the requirement, have been given the mandate. If they do not comply, it is unclear how mobile phone manufacturers will be penalized.
This is part of India’s wider effort to increase digital access across the country, particularly in rural areas. With more than a billion customers, India has one of the largest mobile phone markets in the world. However, many people in India still don’t have access to the most basic internet services, especially in rural areas. The government wants to provide these areas with a low-cost alternative form of communication and entertainment by mandating FM radio on all smartphones.
It is important to note that by the end of 2021, Xiaomi phones will update the radio feature to an FM app, and by the end of 2022, the radio search service will go offline. It remains to be seen how other handset manufacturers will respond to this requirement, but it is clear that FM radio is still a vital part of India’s communications infrastructure, and that the government is doing all it can to ensure that everyone has access to it.