Each mobile phone carries a unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number — a 15-digital number — that can be used to identify the device especially in cases of theft. Now, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has directed that anyone found tampering the IMEI number can face a 3-year-long jail term.
This move by the Department of Telecommunications is aimed at curbing the cases of mobile phone theft and fake IMEI numbers.
The new guidelines called ‘the prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number, Rules, 2017’ states that tampering with the IMEI, Electronic Serial Number (ESN) or any other number or signal ‘that identifies a unique mobile wireless communication device’ is illegal.
“It shall be unlawful, if a person, except the manufacturer, intentionally removes, obliterates, change, or alter unique Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number; or intentionally use, produce, traffic in, have control or custody of, or possess hardware or software, knowing it has been configured as specified above,” the Department of Telecommunications stated in the notification dated August 25, 2017.
New Rules Aimed at Curbing Duplication and Theft
The unique number for mobile devices are allocated by GSMA, a trade body with over 1200 member companies that represents mobile operators worldwide.
The new rules by the Department of Telecommunications will ensure that there is no duplication of IMEI numbers and stolen devices are easily trackable.
Unbranded Mobile Phone Market Will be Hit
According to a PTI report, the department had barred telecom operators to provide service to devices with fake IMEI numbers. In a mobile tracking case, it was found that 18,000 devices used the same IMEI number.
The Department of Telecommunications is also looking to place a new system that will block services to devices on any network if either the SIM is removed or IMEI is changed.
Media reports over the years have suggested that a number of mobile phones, especially the lesser-known brands as well as unbranded ones have been springing up in the market with cloned IMEI numbers.
The new directive by the Department of Telecommunications, which has been framed in accordance with clause (k) of sub-section (2) of section 7 read with section 25 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, will surely crackdown on the unbranded phone market which depends on IMEI numbers from legitimate phone vendors to forward their own cause.