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Days of illegal mobile phones to be numbered by 2021

  • Published at 08:48 pm October 26th, 2020
web-phone imei
IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15-digit unique code given to every single mobile phone, typically found behind the battery Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Tender for supplying, managing relevant tech opens Tuesday

The government is set to open tender on Tuesday for supplying and managing a new technology, which will effectively disable the operations of illegally imported mobile handsets which contain fake international mobile equipment identification (IMEI) numbers.

The tender is for the commencement of the National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR) from 2021, which will maintain a database of all legally imported and purchased handsets and will automatically disable the SIM cards used on illegal handsets after a certain period.

According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) officials, 118.22 million IMEI numbers have been added to a database in the last three years with data from phone importers, operators and Bangladeshi mobile manufacturers. 

On January 22 last year, BTRC launched the mobile handset online database.

The NEIR will use that database and integrate new handset registrations as well.

According to the BTRC, an opportunity would be given to register those phones that were bought before August 2019. Buyers who purchased mobile phones from abroad should keep the purchase receipt and related documents to register IMEIs when the NEIR kicks off later. 

In this case they will keep provisions.

BTRC officials said that for both importing and production of all mobile phones, permission was needed from the telecom regulator. Without approval no phone can be imported.

“We noticed that huge volumes of mobile phones are smuggled into the country without BTRC’s approval. These are selling in the market at cheap prices as they (smugglers) do not give any taxes on those,” said Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar.

“We need a technical solution, the NEIR, with which we can review and monitor all such issues immediately. We are working on NEIR, the tender is almost done and will be opened tomorrow (Tuesday). After getting this software we can take necessary steps on this issue,” the minister added.

Meanwhile the minister also remarked that as it is a software, they did not know how long it would take to commence its operations, but they intended to begin by 2021.

“There may be some errors. It depends whether it will take three months or take more time. But we are hopeful we can do it soon,” Mustafa Jabbar further told Dhaka Tribune. 

BTRC senior assistant director (media) Zakir Hossain Khan said that as the government had given such a message earlier, the initiative was supposed to be launched by October this year, but the progress halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier in July last year, a public notice was issued by the BTRC, asking customers to check whether the IMEI number of their mobile device is registered with BTRC or not.

About 30% of the 100 million mobile phones currently used in Bangladesh have been imported illegally, according to traders. 

BTRC has been working on this issue to curb illegal imports and customs evasion.

IMEI is a 15-digit number that is unique to legitimate mobile phones. 

To know if it is registered, mobile phone users have to enter KYD space 15 digit IMEI number and send it to 16002.