In a bid to help find lost mobile phones and reduce their theft and cloning, the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) will now become a reality in India with a database of the IMEI numbers of all mobile phones sold in the country. The main purpose of this database is that if your mobile phone gets stolen, you can report it to the Department of Telecom (DoT), which will then blacklist it and all services to the device can be stopped making the phone useless in the hands of the person who steals or clones it.
The CEIR database can also put an end to the cloning of mobile phones that has been widely reported in the country. IMEI is the 15-digit unique number by which each mobile phone is identified universally and is integrated into to the telecom service providersâ€™ system to control the subscriptions the customers pay for. The carriers can suspend the services to a device if the IMEI number of the device is furnished to them. This is precisely what the DoT wants to implement once the central register comes into effect.
The only factor to be kept in view is that this database and its availability with a department of the government does lend itself the possibility of interception by the law enforcement. The government may have to create its own internal checks and balances so that the database is not misused for any purpose other than it is originally intended. Will the CEIR and the ability to suspend services to the devices reported stolen deter those involved in stealing mobile phones in the future? A watch will be kept by the industry and the law enforcement on this score.
The model to be followed for this at the national level has already been tried in a smaller scale in the city of Pune. The project itself has taken over 7 years since it was first conceived and announced by the previous government in the year 2012. There was a budget allocation of Rs 15 crore in the interim budget presented to Parliament, in February, earlier this year.
In further explanation of the CEIR and the process involved, it is stated that there would be three lists of the IMEI numbers, Black, White and Grey. The white list is the ones approved for use and the black list will be the ones which have been reported stolen. As far as the grey list is concerned, it is described as those belonging to the devices that donâ€™t conform to standards. The DoT will however permit the devices with the IMEI numbers on the grey list, but under some kind of supervision on their usage.
Globally, a registry is already in use in various geographies including Australia, the UK, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey among others.