Friday, October 30, 2009

Why all the fuss about IMEI Numbers?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Come November 1 many of the Cell Phone users in India won't be able to used their Cell Phones as the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has issued directive to all the service providers not to allow the cell phones without valid IMEI numbers to work. This decision is most likely to affect people owning cheap and funky Chinese made handsets which do not carry any IMEI number or carry invalid IM numbers. The TRAI's directive comes in wake of increasing internal security threats that the country is facing.

Now the question is why is so much fuss being created about IMEI and what is in the first place. IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity through which every cell phone can be uniquely identified. Now another facility available with the IMEI No is that in case of a theft of the mobile it can be made unusable by blocking it. Point to noted here is that such a facility is not available in India although it is the 3rd largest telecom market in the world with close to 480 million subscribers.

Another question is why were such mobile phones allowed to sold in the first place? Now these Chinese made handsets are openly sold across the country without the law enforcement agencies taking any action against them. Why is it that the government has woken up now when one out of four handsets in India does not bear a unique IMEI No? How does the government expect the rural population to aware of such a technical thing while buying cell phones?

If security is the only reason TRAI has taken this decision that it is laughable not because of its intent but because of the fact that the system has too many loopholes. Can the TRAI or the operators claim none of their SIM Cards are distributed before proper background check of the applicant. Will this measure be of any good in making India a more secure place. Will this curb the menace of acquiring a SIM Card in hours without any documents?

The main motive behind the descision won't be served when this is imposed. So what is the purpose of it? What is the Government doing to ensure that such phones do not find their way especially into the rural markets? The main aim of the TRAI is to create regular publicity stunts and make its presence felt. Or else it should check with the operators the quality of service, the distribution of SIM Cards and satisfaction of the customers.


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