The Department of Telecom (DoT) has given the go-ahead to GSM operators to provide a new unique identification number to over 16-million China-made non-IMEI mobile phones in the country. A hope for around 30 million mobile phones in the country which are unbranded Chinese mobiles that do not have IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers which pose a serious security risk will be dead.Users of these handsets, which don’t have the 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, will have to shell out about Rs 180 to obtain the number.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) had earlier asked telecom operators to bar services to phones without IMEI number, citing security reasons. Many handsets assembled locally or imported from China don’t have IMEI numbers that allow security agencies to trace the location of the phone user.DoT had proposed to bar all mobile phones without IMEI numbers after investigations into last year’s bomb blasts revealed that mobile phones used by terrorists didn’t bear valid IMEI numbers.
But now with a new software, developed by GSM operators’ body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Mobile Standards Alliance of India, users of such handsets could get genuine IMEI numbers and continue to receive telecom services.
They will have to visit any of the 1,600 centres being set up by COAI across the country to get the software installed on their phones. The first 10 centres became operational in Delhi on Monday and the remaining will be ready in a phased manner.
“We believe that most of these handsets are owned by the masses. Thus, it would be unfair and unjust to disconnect such customers as they have bought these handsets unknowingly,” COAI director general TV Ramachandran said.
The association has obtained IMEI numbers from GSMA, the global body that allocates these numbers. According to industry estimates, Chinese handsets account for about 13.3%, or Rs 4,000 crore, of India’s total mobile handset market, which is pegged at around Rs 30,000 crore a year.