Only illegal or unregistered SIMs are not to be blamed in Pakistan because they make one half of the mobile communication. The other half is off course the mobile handset that has to be equally cleaned unique in terms of IMEI number and registered at the same time.
For last few months, illegal SIMs in Pakistan have become talk of the town with every news item publishing the statement from government officials about blocking those SIMs, changing verification and distribution pattern and even getting rid of prepaid SIM in Pakistan.
All these halfhearted statements have only raised concerns in the corridors of foreign investors. Not only this, it has also shown government’s in-ability to pinpoint all the primary issues in an almost un-documents sector. The dirty SIM is not more than 50% of the problem which i have also discussed in my earlier story. The other 50% is the mobile handset, the hardware that has to be unique and as per predefined PTA’s standards that unfortunately only exist in their books.
According to GSM Association, the International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI is a number, usually unique to identify mobile phones as well as some satellite phones. International standard says, The IMEI must be unique for each device, so there needs to be a way of managing allocations of IMEIs to handset manufacturers to ensure that no two devices use the same IMEI.
In Pakistan, the above rules is being violated very openly and multiple mobile phones with same IMEI numbers are being smuggled into the country by just greasing the palms of import authorities. This is being practiced for over a decade and number of such fake mobile phones in Pakistan is exorbitant.
According to investigation conducted by MORE, more than 3 million mobile phones in Pakistan are running on fake/compromised IMEIs. From 2 phones with same IMEI this number goes as high as 83,000 active mobile phones running on only one cellular network with same IMEI number. This is similar to tracking some suspected vehicle without any registration number on it. How many cars of the same model and color anyone can shortlist to locate the suspected car, one can easily guess.
Mobile phones having same IMEI numbers are normally sold by the Chinese handset importers but shockingly, our investigation has found that even mobile phones from famous brands are having similar IMEI numbers on various phones. In Pakistan Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Q Mobile are the major recognized stake holders competing each other fiercely in the lower end handset segment. Apart from them a huge market share belongs to the un-named Chinese mobile phones that are being imported and distributed by individual shopkeepers without following standard procedures.
On average, mobile phone import in the country varies between 2 – 3 million handsets of various denominations in a month. A considerable number of them violates PTA’s Type Approval Rules and the practice continues right under the nose of PTA. The reasons best known to PTA officials.
When Interior Minister, Reman Malik says that mobile SIMs are used to trigger the bombs he must know that it is unregistered mobile handset that also becomes a part of it. On Eid ul Fitr, he had announced that soon Pakistan would have a comprehensive policies to control the import of illegal mobile phones having fake IMEIs. And now, statement from President Zardari directing him to do things in actual rather than briefings discloses the fact that being Interior Minister how serious he is to get rid of this menace.
Mr. Malik can read the following few lines that can be found on GSM Association website as well. Perhaps this will help him formulate a workable policy.
The GSMA maintains a unique system known as the IMEI Database (IMEI DB), which is a global central database containing basic information on serial number (IMEI) ranges of millions of mobile devices (e.g. mobile phones, laptop data cards, etc.) that are in use across the world’s mobile networks.
The GSM Association performs this role, and records all of the IMEIs that are allocated to mobile device manufacturers in the IMEI DB. When reserving IMEIs for a device manufacturer, the GSMA stores some basic information associated with the IMEI. This information includes the manufacturer name and the model identifier of the associated handset and some of its technical capabilities (e.g. frequency bands supported by the handset, the handset power class, etc.).
The IMEI DB also supports what is known as a “black list”. The black list is a list of IMEIs that are associated with mobile devices that should be denied service on mobile networks because they have been reported as lost, stolen, faulty or otherwise unsuitable for use. Previously known as the Central Equipment Identify Register (CEIR), the IMEI DB acts as a central system for network operators to share their individual black lists so that devices denied service (blacklisted) by one network will not work on other networks even if the SIM card in the device is changed.
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