Government issues notices on illegal mobile handsets news
24 December 2008

Addressing security concerns, the centre has notified the customs department to  only  allow imports of mobile handsets after the declaration of the 'international mobile equipment identity' (IMEI) numbers of each handset.

Separately has the department of telecommunications has also directed all the cellular mobile service providers to make the provision of authentications on mobile handsets with IMEI number for GSM networks and the 'electronic serial number' (ESN) for CDMA networks.

Following the recent terrorist strikes in Mumbai, minister of state for communications and information technology Jyotiraditya Scindia told the Lok Sabha this week that henceforth all mobile handsets available in the country wouldhave to carry the IEMI number, which can be identified on the operator's network whenever a call is made from that particular handset.

Some media reports suggest that there are over 25 million handsets originating from China and many of them do not carry the mandatory IEMI numbers.

The IMEI is a unique 15-digit code that identifies individual mobiles and is used in identifying stolen handsets from making unauthorised calls by legally blocking that particular IEMI code.

In many countries an IEMI code is mandatory for all purchases of mobile handsets, but the Indian government has dithered over making it mandatory for only IMEI-coded handsets into the country, despite the spate of terrorist strikes. Security agencies say terorists have been using cheap throwaway Chinese-made handsets that do not have an IEMI number, making the call to the originator untraceable for law enforcement agencies.

DoT said in a letter to operators on 6 October, "In the interest of national security, all cellular mobile service providers in unified access service licences (UASL) are hereby directed to make provisions for EIR so that calls without IMEI or with IMEI consisting of all zeroes are not processed, or rejected."

"If switches do not have such a facility, the necessary hardware and software should be put in place within three months of the issue date of this letter and compliance reported," it added.

The network operators have asked the government for time as they would have to make additional investments in their hardware as well as time to install software since the EIR equipment has to be imported.

They have also said that many genuine customers had to be enlightened that software costing a meagre Rs100 can be downloaded into the handset for an IEMI number to be added to the handset.

The Chinese make of handsets are popular with many people due to thei low cost as most of them are made in the factories near the Pearl Delta river where no R&D has gone into the making of these handsets as well as extremely low cost chips are used and are rolled out by the millions to be sold to third world countries.

Many official vendors in India like Nokia, Sony, Motorola and others have often asked the Indian government to regulate the Chinese imports of low-quality handsets in the past, that affect their own sales.

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Government issues notices on illegal mobile handsets