India’s DoT Tightens Noose Around Carriers Over IMEI Issue

After the many terrorist attacks in the country and the apparent use of mobile phones as an important tool for planning and the execution of the attacks, India’s Department of Telecom (DoT) had instructed all the mobile service providers in the country to disconnect service to handsets on their network that do not have the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.

India, one of the largest telecom industries in the world with almost 300 million mobile users is reported to be housing as many as 25 million mobile phones with an IMEI number. The IMEI number, a unique 15-digit code for every mobile manufactured, is an integral part of any mobile handset as it is used to monitor the activities from the phone.

The department gave the operators 3 months to arrange for the equipments if the hardware wasn’t in place. In a letter to all the mobile service providers in the country, DoT said

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,

India is a tremendously huge marker for grey market phones, most of which originate in China. Lately, there has been a surge in the demand for ‘almost-real’ fake phones in the marker, with the introduction of many high-end phones from companies such as Apple, Nokia and HTC.

The department, today, announced that it has extended the deadline to April 15th after the previous deadline of January 6th was blatantly ignored by the telecom companies. However, DoT this time has put its foot down and made it very clear that if the telcos fail to comply with these guidelines will not be allowed to take on any new subscribers after the expiry of the deadline. The telcos are already paying a daily fine to DoT.

The fate of these 25 million handset users now clearly lies on the livewire, as the very reason most of these handsets were purchased because their original counterparts were too expensive for them, or there was a lack of awareness in the market. Eventually, the Chinese handsets still serve as a very cheap alternative and you can grab a very basic color – screen handset with a decent 3 mega pixel camera for as Rs. 3000.

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