25 million Indians have their mobiles blocked
Indian authorities have blocked 25 million Chinese-made mobile phones that lack an identification number allowing calls to be traced, in the latest push to tighten telecom security.
Officials at the telecom ministry said they had banned services to low-end Chinese phones without a 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) number.
The government has also launched an investigation into the use of Chinese-made telecom equipment in border areas due to fears that national security could be jeopardised - a move reflecting wider border tensions.
The IMEI number helps identify all calls received and made on a phone and provides information on the manufacturer and type of handset. With most phones, the IMEI is automatically registered with service providers when they are first activated.
"All mobile service providers have been instructed to block services to 25 million cell phones on security grounds," an official at the telecom ministry who asked not to be named said.
"Phones without the IMEI numbers are untraceable and pose a security threat," he said, adding that customers owning such devices had been given a two-week deadline to switch to a valid handset.
Alternatively, they can manually register their phone with their service provider and buy an IMEI for 199 rupees ($4).
The move follows a decision to ban pre-paid connections in insurgency-hit Indian Kashmir for security reasons, a move that affected 3.8 million users in the disputed north-western region and sparked protests.
India's intelligence agencies have warned that Chinese products could have embedded elements enabling China to launch a cyber attack or shut down the equipment, according to recent press reports.
India is the world's second-biggest cellular market with more than 500 million users, lagging behind only China, which has over 600 million users.
On Tuesday, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an industry body, said they were adhering to the telecom ministry order and providers were blocking services to the invalid phones.
"We had sought an extension of the deadline and since that has not been done, we have adhered to the given deadline," T. Dua, director general of COAI said.
C.M.Mathai, national coordinator for the Indian Cellular Association, another industry body, said the ban would briefly affect network operators but allowing invalid phones to operate would have been a "big blunder".
"A majority of these handsets are sold in the grey market. They do not have a IMEI number which is a matter of concern for the security agencies. The ban was very important," he said.
According to ICA estimates, unbranded phones account for nearly 30 per cent of all sales in India. These phones are without codes and are imported mostly from China.
"Millions of consumers will suffer due to the ban but security issues have to be given utmost importance," he said, adding the unbranded market of the telecom industry had become a serious challenge for operators and the government.
Re: 25 million Indians have their mobiles blocked
well good thing the mobile phones without .. IMEI are blocked ..
it is just they can track the illegal activities done with use of mobile phone ..
but they forgot the IMEI can be reprogrammed and new IMEI can be set to any cell phone
India followed the track of GSM-association after 10 years..