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Government allots Rs 15 cr for mobile phone tracking system

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The government has proposed to allocate Rs 15 crore for setting up a mobile phone tracking system in the country that will bring down the number of counterfeit handsets and discourage theft, said the Union Budget document 2018-19. The system – Central Equipment’s Identity Register (CEIR)- to be set up under Department of Telecom (DoT), will block all services on stolen or lost mobile phones on any network even if the SIM card is removed or IMEI number of the handset is changed. BSNL has been entrusted with the task of setting up CEIR at its Pune centre.

The system will aim to bring down the number of counterfeit mobile phones and discourage theft, the document said. CEIR is also expected to protect consumer interest and facilitate law enforcement authorities for lawful interception. CEIR will connect the IMEI database of all mobile operators. It will act as a central system for all network operators to share blacklisted mobile terminals so that devices placed under the said category in one network will not work on the other, even if the SIM card in the device is changed, it said.

IMEI number – a unique 15-digit serial number of mobile devices – is allocated by global industry body GSMA and bodies authorised by it. When a mobile phone is lost, the victim is required to mention the IMEI number of the handset for tracking. “The theft of mobile phones is not just a financial loss but also a threat to personal life of the citizens as well as national security,” the document said.

CEIR will be regularly updated with IMEI of lost, stolen or counterfeit handsets. The DoT has barred telecom operators from providing service to any mobile phone with fake IMEI number but the operators face problem in identifying handsets with duplicate IMEI number.

CEIR will also help operators in identifying handsets with fake IMEI numbers as it will have details of handset model to whom the IMEI has been originally allocated. The DoT is also set to notify rules that will make tampering of IMEI number a punishable offence with up to three years of imprisonment.

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