'No network' for illegal handsets in Bangladesh after July

Source:the Financial Express Published: 2020/3/4 16:39:30

Mobile handsets, imported illegally or having fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers and operating since last August, will not be able to use Bangladesh's mobile networks.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will disconnect all such handsets, once it sets up National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR), a system meant to check use of fake handsets, said a BTRC circular issued on Sunday

The regulator is planning to complete procurement of NEIR by April, and installation by July. BTRC called a tender last week, seeking an experienced independent firm to supply, install and operate NEIR at BTRC.

A BTRC official said the commission last month approved a proposal in this regard, and sent it to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for final nod.

"We have planned to complete the installation by July," he added.

At present, the government, mobile phone operators and importers have no tool to check use of handsets, imported into the country illegally.

The illegal import of handsets is causing a loss of around Tk 10 billion to the public exchequer, and also eroding sale of handsets brought to the country by authorised importers.

After installation, NEIR will preserve IMEI numbers, a unique way to identify each handset, making it easier to extract information about legally imported or locally manufactured headsets, according to BTRC.

The system will help block illegal equipment, mainly mobile handsets, from flooding the market. This will boost sale of legally imported handsets, and help the government realise higher amount of revenue.

Besides, it will allow to prevent trading of stolen handsets alongside tightening security.

Apart from the move to install NEIR, the telecom regulator implemented another project for setting up an IMEI database that will help customers check whether any handset is imported legally or not.

BTRC in a notice on July 29, 2019 asked mobile phone users to check the authenticity of their mobile handsets before purchase. It also warned that the commission will disconnect fake handsets, once NEIR comes into operation.

In the notice, the telecom regulator said if any mobile phone handset is found with a clone or wrong IMEI number, it will be disconnected.

"Customers are advised to check the authenticity before buying handsets. In the message option of any phone, customers should type KYD15-digit IMEI number and send it to 16002 to get accurate information about his/her handset," said the BTRC notice.

"Also, customers can know IMEI information by dialling *#06#," the notice reads.

BTRC officials said handsets with clone IMEI numbers come mostly through illegal channels, and are used for conducting illegal activities as those sets cannot be tracked.

In January, BTRC seized 700 mobile phone handsets, which were imported illegally, during raids at Eastern Plaza and Motalib Plaza shopping centres in the city.

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