What you need to know

  • India's Department of Telecom (DoT) will soon implement a central register of IMEI numbers to tackle the phone theft menace.
  • The DoT will blacklist IMEI numbers that are reported to it as being stolen or lost, blocking access to cellular networks.
  • Another objective of the central register will be to make IMEI-based lawful interception easier.

According to a report from The Indian Express, India's Telecom Ministry will soon introduce a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), which will have a database of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers. IMEI is basically a unique 15-digit number that makes it possible to identify each mobile phone. The main objective of CEIR will be to bring down the number of mobile theft cases in the country by a significant margin.

Once the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) is implemented, it will allow consumers in India to inform the Department of Telecom (DoT) that their mobile phone has been lost or stolen with the help of a dedicated helpline number, after they have filed a report with the police. Once a mobile phone is reported as being stolen or lost to the Department of Telecom (DoT), it can proceed to blacklist the IMEI number, which would make it impossible for the device to access any cellular network. Aside from curbing mobile theft in the country, the CEIR will apparently facilitate "IMEI-based lawful interception" as well.

The idea of preparing a national registry of IMEI numbers was first pitched in the National Telecom Policy-2012. In July 2017, the Department of Telecom (DoT) first announced a plan to implement the idea and a pilot project was conducted in the western state of Maharashtra. A similar equipment identity register is already in place in countries like Australia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey, and the U.K. India's CEIR will have access to the GSM Association (GSMA) global IMEI database as well, which will help in comparing IMEI numbers to make it easier to identify counterfeit mobile phones.

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