Huge impact on grey market phones.
New Delhi, June 17 In a move that could signal the end of grey market mobile phones, the Government on Wednesday banned import of all handsets without the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
IMEI is a unique 15-digit code that identifies a mobile. It prevents the use of stolen handsets for making calls and allows security agencies to track down a specific user. However, a majority of handsets sold in the grey market do not come with the IMEI, which has is of concern for security agencies.
The Government move to ban handsets without the code will hit a number of Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers that were flooding cheap handsets in the grey market. The move will have no impact on the 25 million cellular users who already have bought a handset without IMEI. The ban is applicable only on new handsets being imported into the country.
The Director-General of Foreign Trade issued the notification on Wednesday imposing the ban with immediate effect.
Welcoming the decision, Mr Pankaj Mohindroo, President, Indian Cellular Association, said, “This is a step in the right direction to throttle handset grey market. However, much more needs to be done to tackle this menace. We are working with the Government in this regard.”
To protect consumers who have already bought handsets without the IMEI number, the Cellular Operators Association of India has tied up with Mobile Standard Alliance of India to set up 1,600 retail outlets across the country to provide the IMEI number on handsets without one. It is estimated that there are 25 million subscribers across the country using handsets without the IMEI number. Concerned over the national security, the Department of Telecom had earlier asked operators to disconnect services to handsets that do not have the IMEI number by April 15. However, the COAI, representing the GSM industry, has developed a software that will provide the unique number to instruments that do not have it.
The solution is being implemented with the approval of the DoT and the security agencies. Subscribers who do not avail themselves of this facility will be disconnected by the operators after June 30.
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