Wednesday 2 December 2009

Upto 25 million mobiles in trouble in India

I blogged about the Shanzhai phones earlier and mentioned that since they dont have an IMEI, they can cause problems for the security officials and India was considering banning them.

Now, this has finally happened. Mobile phones without the code were blocked at midnight - operators were asked to bar calls to them "in the wake of increased threat perception from militants".

The absence of this number makes it impossible to trace either the caller or the phone or to access call details.

Indian intelligence agencies say phones without the code have been used in attacks by militant groups.

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is a 15-digit code which appears on the operator's network whenever a call is made.

It is estimated that India has more than 25 million phones without codes. Phones with no codes or invalid numbers are mostly cheap, unbranded phones. Millions are manufactured in India or imported, mostly from China.

If you're one amongst the estimated 25 million users with such phones and wish to have the phone in working condition again, (in case yours went offline as well) there is a legal way of doing it. The government has authorized some organizations to legalize your illegal handsets by assigning an approved IMEI number to it. The GII (Genuine IMEI Implant) program involves a short trip to the nearest GII outlet, paying a nominal Rs. 199 fee to have your phone legalized.

In major cities, you can visit The MobileStore outlets to get this done. You might also want to contact your operator if they have arranged for any such facilities. For those interested in The MobileStore program, all you need to do is to call 6000 63 63 to figure out the nearest outlet where your Chinese phone can get a new lease of life

The MobileStore claims to have successfully done over 30,000 IMEI implants in over 60 cities.


Anonymous said...

I am a little confused about the Indian intelligence agencies saying that phones without IMEI numbers have been used in attacks by militant groups and that banning them from the networks solves this problem.
Whilst the IMEI indentifies the device, it is the IMSI (stored in the SIM) that identifies the user. Surely management of access to the network via IMSI, since this is linked to payment, is much easier than the device.
Surely stolen phones whith valid IMIEs are just as easy for militant groups to use.
Additionaly could someone please clarify if the IMIEs are indeed missing, or just iligitimate and/or perhaps duplicated. I understood that IMEIs where required by the GSM specification to actualy log on to a network, but the validation of the IMEIs was up to the network.

Zahid Ghadialy said...

Hi Anonymous Gary,

As far as I understand, with IMEI you can track down the phone from its origin to its movement as to which IMSI was it associated with , etc.

You can always buy a Pay as you go SIM where you do not have to provide proof of your identity. With IMEI, it is generally assumed that you have more tracability than IMSI. This may not necessarily be true though.

The phones in question have no IMEI. So when the Network asks for IMEI it will return all 0's (or 1234...). In fact one of the things people are not mentioning is the spoofing of IMEI's where you can put any Valid IMEI on any other phone. In this case Networks are still able to trace that the IMEI for a particular phone is invalid but it requires complex database and algorithms so I am not sure this will happen.

Having IMEI is generally more useful and it also has a placebo affect ;)