Illegal, stolen handsets to be denied network access soon

HM Murtuza | Published: 00:00, Jul 04,2019


Illegal and stolen handset users would not get access to the mobile phone network, said a draft directives of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on Wednesday.

The directives titled Equipment Identity Register for Mobile Network Operators in Bangladesh would allow the telecom regulator to set up and maintain a National Equipment Identity Register.

Mobile phone importers and manufacturers have long been demanding setting up of the NEIR for the prevention of illegal handset import and to protect them from illegal traders and smugglers.

At present, neither the government nor the mobile phone operators or the mobile phone importers have any tool to check use of illegally imported handset, which is causing around Tk 1,000 crore losses to the government and eating away at sales of handsets imported by legal importers.

The draft directive came after the BTRC’s decision in December last year to introduce the NEIR. The commission in its notice on the draft directives asked individuals and entities associated with the mobile phone industry including the customers to deposit their comment by July 18 this year.

However, the telecom regulator would allow all sort of mobile handsets and devices irrespective of whether they were legal or illegal to access to the mobile phone network when the NEIR would be launched.

The NEIR would preserve international mobile equipment identity to make it easier to extract information about legally imported or locally manufactured headsets.

In case of a stolen set or loss of a phone, the draft directives says that the subscriber will have to file a general diary with the local police station first.

The customer will then have to visit a customer care centre of the mobile phone operators for the SIMs with the copy of the GD and the NID to make a complaint and block the stolen device.

The mobile phone operator, after verifying equipment identity register and the information on the device, will forward a request to the NEIR for further action.

The NEIR, after necessary verification, will shift the IMEI from previous list to lost or stolen list thus blocking access to all the networks.

Mobile phone operators will get two months to get prepared to launch the NIR system after the issuance of final directive from the BTRC.

Once the NEIR is established, the EIRs of the mobile phone operators will be connected with the NEIR.

Maintaining safety of the EIR would be a vital responsibility for the mobile operators and they would face legal actions for violations of any of the provisions mentioned in the directives.

According to a statement of Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association, import of mobile handsets in Bangladesh dropped by 17.85 per cent or 50 lakh units in January-September period of 2018 compared to that in the same period last year due to a boom in handset sales in grey market.

Illegally imported handsets have already occupied more than 30 per cent share of the handset market worth around Tk 3,000 crore, causing more than Tk 1,000 crore revenue losses for the government, severely impacting the authorised importers and manufacturers, said mobile handset importers.

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