My experience with GPS licensing

Jul 2008 | Comments Off on My experience with GPS licensing


PhotograPhy happens to be my current favourite hobby. Recently I developed interest in geocoding my photographs. By geocoding photographs you can associate a geographical location with the photograph. This involves putting the latitude, longitude and altitude in the photographs EXIF tags. Exchangeable image file format (Exif) is a specification for the image file format used by digital cameras. This is trivial if you use a GPS receiver. Last year, I had succeeded in making necessary interface to my Nikon D200 camera with a GPS receiver. You can read about it in detail at

As a school kid, when Rohini was launched, I was fascinated by satellite communication, It was with great interest, I looked forward to getting a GPS receiver. After doing some reading on the net, I narrowed on a GPS receiver being manufactured by a Taiwan firm named Holux. The model was Holux M-241 GPS receiver. The good thing about this receiver is that it runs on one AA battery. It also as a LCD screen which displays the geographical position. It also has enough memory to record 130,000 positions. I also managed to locate a ebay merchant called plumbargains, who had the best price I could find on the internet. So on 13th Mar, using my paypal account, I placed the order. The merchant promptly shipped the item on 14th Mar via EMS. With excitement I started tracking the package. It reached Mumbai on 14th Mar and got dispatched to Chennai. After that all I could see that the package has reached Chennai customs on Mar 17th. After that it seemed a long wait for the package to arrive. Finally 12 days later, on 25th Mar, I receive a letter dated 19th Mar 2008 from Office of Commisioner of Customs, Postal Appraising Dept – Air, Chennai asking for the following
1) Commercial Invoice
2) Purpose of import

The letter did manage to stress me a bit as it stated that if documents are not submitted within 15 days, the parcel will be treated as unauthorized as per Export- Import policy, custom act and postal regulations and appropriate action will be taken. Being a law abiding citizen, with extreme worry on my face, I replied the same day with the commercial invoice and a letter telling the customs that the GPS receiver will be used for my photography hobby. I even tried calling the customs office. But somehow I was never able to get through to the officer. Either the officer didn’t happen to be in his seat or my lack of Tamil hampered my ability to communicate. After a wait of another eight days, I again received another intimation on 02 Apr (letter was dated 28/03/2008). To my shock and utter disbelief, the customs department was asking me for a WPC licence. The WIRELESS PLANNING & COORDINATION (WPC) Wing of the Ministry of Communications, created in 1952, is the National Radio Regulatory Authority responsible for Frequency Spectrum Management, including licensing and caters for the needs of all wireless users (Government and Private) in the country. It exercises the statutory functions of the
Central Government and issues licenses to establish, maintain and operate wireless stations. After finding this information about WPC on the net, you can imagine the worry I had. I felt as I have done some major goof up in India’s wireless spectrum by ordering this tiny receiver.

At this stage I decided that this was not right. Mobile phones with built-in-gps are being allowed without any problem. There are plenty of sites in India itself who are selling these GPS receivers at double the cost. So I couldn’t figure out how I could disturb the wireless spectrum of India by using this receiver. But to be on the right side of the law, I decided to find out if WPC licence is required or not. If it was required, I decided that I would write to WPC and pay the necessary license fees to operate the receiver.

I came across two articles in Coordinates (www.mycoordinates.org) – GPS imports – Derestricted From this article I came to know that GPS imports was derestricted in Jan 2004. The article also provided relevant notifications and the ITC(HS) Exim Code 8526 91 90. I also went to the DGFT website, got the relevant email addresses and wrote an email to
DGFT and WPC asking for help and clarification in this regard. I also faxed a letter to P.K. Garg – Wireless Adviser to the Government of India, Ministry of Communications & IT, New Delhi. Somehow, it seems that all my emails went into some kind of black hole. Never got any reply to any of my emails or fax.

Some of my friends suggested giving bribe. But I was sure that I didn’t want to do that. So almost giving up, I drafted my reply to Chennai Customs, with copy of the notifications, and Chapter 85 of the new ITC(HS) classification which deals with the exim code 8526 91 90. In
my letter I also mentioned that I have asked DGFT and WPC for clarification in this regard. Also stated that there is no WPC licence required and the parcel should be released after studying the material which I have provided.

I had given up all hopes and on Apr 11th 2008, I have the postman knocking on my door with the parcel. They collected the duty @32.011%. Absolutely no visit to the customs office. But the thing which made me happy the most was the fact that there was no bribe paid. It looks like that the custom officials were not aware of the latest
notifications. I have now been using my GPS receiver and hope that this experience will help other law abiding Indian Citizens to import these GPS receivers legally without any hassles. Other than the fact that it took almost a month to get the parcel and none of the officials responded to any of my emails, I am very satisfied that at least there
was no corruption involved in this exercise. So my suggestion is, if your GPS receiver gets held up in Customs for WPC license, you need to provide all the notifications/ circular mentioned in the article by Bal Krishna in the article “GPS Receivers – Derestricted”. Also send the relevant pages mentioning the exim code 8526 91 90 inhap 85 of the new ITC(HS) code. You can download that at http://www.infodriveindia.com/content/Exim/DGFT/ITC-HS-Codes- Import-Schedule-1/ch%2085.doc



His Coordinates
Steve Berglund
Mark your calendar
May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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