Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is mulling to devise a system called Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) to block the illegal and counterfeit mobile handsets being used across the country while posing serious threat to public safety.
System will also support the blockade of stolen/snatched phones, if their IMEI numbers are reported to the concerned bodies,
The telecom watchdog will design DRIBS which will operate as Centralized Equipment Identity Register to discourage influx of mobile handsets and tablets imported through grey channel at the cost of public safety and tax revenue to the national kitty.
In simpler words, PTA will maintain a list of allowed IMEIs (imported legally, PTA approved IMEIs, IMEIs paired with CNICs etc.) to be allowed to register with local networks. All other IMEIs, called blacklisted phones/tablets will not be able to get registered with cellular networks.
In the consultation document titled “Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS)”, PTA sought feedback of the stakeholders including mobile handset makers, mobile phone companies and consumers by July 18, 2016 in order to take an initiative as per recently introduced Telecom Policy 2015.
With the launch of 3G/4G services in the country for past two years, the arrival of hi-tech handsets are on the rise but the higher taxes on handsets opened the door of imports through improper channels or smuggling or through unauthorized importers costing not only revenue losses to the government but also posing serious threats as these handsets are not registered with authority and cannot be traced or monitored through mobile phone networks in case of misuse.
The system will use IMEI of device along with other parameters and help in identifying, monitoring and regulating such devices.
It will have capability to help identify counterfeit and illegally imported mobile devices that avoid collection of tax revenues, contribute towards security issues, and negatively impact both end users and MNOs in Pakistan.
PTA quoted examples of nine countries—Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Colombia, UAE, Uganda, Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine — which have already set up a centralized system to overcome the issues of counterfeit and illegal devices and negative repercussions in their territories in the past, and successfully achieved results.
PTA said that influx of illegal devices are mainly misused in criminal and fraudulent activities.
The proposed DIRBS will enable identification and blocking of these illegal/invalid devices in the market and active on mobile phone networks with the help of cellular operator and handset makers and Consumers.
PTA describes Illegal/invalid devices (mobile handsets, tablets, SIM based routers, SIM based Laptops) include:
- Counterfeit devices (replicas of official OEMs’ original devices)
- Illegally imported devices (import tax not paid)
- Devices with invalid IMEIs (IMEIs not assigned by GSMA)
- Devices with duplicate IMEIs (multiple devices with same IMEI)
- Devices reported as stolen/lost (reported locally in Pakistan and globally to GSMA)
- PTA within the framework will introduce a mechanism that will allow for mobile handsets producers, mobile phone operators to report to PTA any business identified as source of stolen devices.
- Mobile phone companies will report to PTA any devices latched on to their network and reported/identified as stolen.
- Mobile operators will block stolen terminal equipment once reported.
- End users and retailers should verify IMEI validity of devices.
- PTA will manage and install the required hardware, software and infrastructure through its own resources.
Additionally, it shall manage the operation and maintenance of the Hardware, Software and Infrastructure for the entire project excluding any up-gradation of Mobile Operators’ EIR or any facility/system if required at MNO or OEM/Distributors side.
DIRBS will enhance government revenue by allowing devices imported through proper channel. DIRBS will not only monitor devices being brought into the country in the future, but will also check the installed base of devices currently active or being sold in the channel.
Furthermore, DIRB shall facilitate importers of legitimate devices to continue import of genuine mobile devices through legal import channels. In short, DIRBS and its successful implementation will benefit the entire mobile ecosystem in Pakistan.
This is not the first time that PTA is thinking about maintaining a white-list and blacklist of phones/tablets based on IMEIs, in fact PTA made similar attempts previously at least thrice in 2008, 2010 and 2013, however, those instances remained unsuccessful as IMEI of phones can be changed easily.
Alongside maintaining the list of IMEIs of illegal, smuggled and stolen phones, PTA will also have to shut down all those mobile shops that offer the flashing of IMEIs of mobile phones.
The consultation document can be completely viewed here for detail insight.