The government has so far unearthed 18,000 mobile handsets with fake identity numbers, communications and information technology minister Kapil Sibal said on Friday.
The fifteen-digit number, called International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), is supposed to be unique to each handset. This enables security and law enforcement agencies to pinpoint the actual user. However, handsets sold in the grey market often lack an IMEI number or have a fake one. Most such handsets are brought into the country from China or Taiwan.
''At present, it is difficult to differentiate between the original handset and the duplicated one with the same IMEI. But the Department of Telecommunications is examining the issue,'' Sibal told the Rajya Sabha.
The DoT, on 29 April 2009, had directed that calls from mobile handsets with fake identity numbers should not be processed. The ministry of commerce has already banned import of mobile handsets without IMEI.
But, despite these measures, import of unbranded handsets has grown four-fold in three years from 5.5 million in 2007-08, according to the Indian Cellular Association. The industry body has been asking the government for stricter action against fake phones.