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Fresh lease for Chinese mobiles?
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#1
BANGALORE: Chinese mobile handsets could make a comeback into the Indian cellphone network after operators started altering the International
Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers. Recently, the department of telecommunication (DoT) issued a directive to Cellular Operators of India (COI), asking it to block telephone services to Chinese handsets after DoT found hundreds of handsets shared the same IMEI number.

Altering last six digits

According to sources, mobile operators are altering the last six digits of IMEI numbers where more than one handset shared the same number. For new Chinese handsets, soon after the customer inserts the SIM card
, the operator asks for a six-digit mobile identity number of the user’s choice.

This number will be incorporated with existing IMEI number and generate a new one for the handset. Trouble started when these cheap handsets began pouring into the Indian grey market at 3 million handsets per year. This enabled pirates to purchase the cellphones in bulk and sell them in this market.

Several handsets with one number

The police had a problem with Chinese handsets as several handsets had the same IMEI number. When criminals changed their numbers or in case of mobile phone thefts,police would track them by IMEI numbers. With Chinese handsets, police found that over 1,000 handsets had the same numbers.

Underworld operators and terrorists realized that this would be to their advantage and triggered the demand for Chinese handsets. As this posed a security threat, cellular operators began feeling the heat. Whenever police wanted to track criminals who used mobile phones, the address proof given when the number was activated was found to be fake. The only other way to track the criminal was through the IMEI.

For better security

Sensing trouble, the COI explained the problem to the government. The DoT then issued a directive to the COI to cut off service to persons with Chinese handsets. Initially, some customers with such handsets received SMSes from operators, asking them to change the handset or face disconnection of service. However, service continued without a break. According to sources in a private operator, they have received the directive.

“It is a very sensitive issue. After receiving the initial intimation , we were asked to go slow. But we cannot reveal details,” said a private employee working with the mobile handset market.

Corrective measures

Department of telecommunication (DoT) issued a directive to Cellular Operators of India, asking it to block telephone services to Chinese handsets.

DoT found that hundreds of handsets shared the same IMEI number.

Customers with such handsets received SMSes from operators, asking them to change the handset or face disconnection of service.

Terror threat?

When criminals changed their numbers, police would track them by IMEI numbers. With Chinese handsets, police found tracing difficult. Underworld operators and terrorists may use this to their advantage.

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