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India Hanging Up On 25 Million Cell Phones 103

jvillain writes "India is about to pull the plug on 25 million cell phones in the name of fighting terrorism and fraud. 'The ban by India's Department of Telecommunications has been unfolding gradually since Oct. 6, 2008, six weeks before the attacks in Mumbai killed 173 people and wounded 308. A memo then directed service providers to cut off cellphone users whose devices didn't have a real IMEI — or unique identity number — in the interests of 'national security.' Since then, the move has picked up steam as a way to circumvent terrorists using black market, unregistered cellphones. The Mumbai attackers kept in touch with each other via cellphones and used GPS to pinpoint their attacks, which started Nov. 26, 2008, and went on for three days. The telecommunications department has issued warnings and deadlines through 2009 but has announced this one is for real, telling operators to block cellphones without valid IMEI numbers. Previously, it warned companies to stop importing them and customers to stop buying them.'"
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India Hanging Up On 25 Million Cell Phones

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  • Re:Sat Phones (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld&gmail,com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:38PM (#30277076)

    Yes. [] Yes they do.

  • Re:Cloned phones (Score:4, Informative)

    by Abreu ( 173023 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:45PM (#30277158)

    We are going through something similar in Mexico, where the Federal Goverment wants everyone to register their phone and tie it to their "Universal ID number"

    This started early this year, and supposedly unregistered phones will stop working sometime in the first quarter of 2010, however I fail to see how this is in the best interests of phone companies, who gladly sell airtime cards and sim chips to anyone who asks...

    I for one, plan on resisting this as long as I can

  • Same in Mexico (Score:5, Informative)

    by happyfeet2000 ( 1208074 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @07:49PM (#30277198)

    We have until April 10th 2010 to register all our cellphones with the CURP (something like your SS number) of the person using it, even if a company cel. []. Cel numbers not registered by that date will be blocked.

    In a country where bank customer databases have been sold to the organized crime to pick kidnap victims, many times with participation of corrupt government or police officers, where we train our kids and families to never answer the phone with a family name for fear of being monitored by criminals this is giving everybody the creeps. Also next year, in a multimillon dollar deal, a company will be picked to create a national identification card with biometric data like retinal scans.

    Again, in a country where politicians are regarded as little more than a group of high level thieves this is raising lots of eyebrows.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:02PM (#30277356)

    The cellphone fees are so high in Canada that nobody would ever use them for anything, including terrorism.

  • Re:Yeah, great idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by zill ( 1690130 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @08:07PM (#30277406)
    A "bogus IMEI" is defined as any IMEI found in the CEIR. []

    Anytime an operator finds duplicate IMEI numbers on their network, they immediately ban that number and report the offending number to the CEIR, which in turn ensure the offending IMEI number is banned across the world.
  • Great (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 30, 2009 @10:50PM (#30278646)

    Except that the Mumbai attackers kept in contact with Nokia phones.. Not cloned or invalid phones.

  • Re:Yeah, great idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @11:05PM (#30278742) Homepage

    they immediately ban that number and report the offending number to the CEIR, which in turn ensure the offending IMEI number is banned across the world.

    Living in fantasy world, are we? Getting an IMEI block on your stolen phone in Poland is impossible, even with Police report, even when you got friends in Police.
    Its NOT across the world, its not across the continent, its not even across one country. At best is provider wide.

  • by Vegeta99 ( 219501 ) <rjlynn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @11:19PM (#30278868)

    Yeah, FUCK AT&T. I had a Tilt (HTC TyTn II) stolen from me. They would deactivate the SIM, but not the phone itself. Then, they could tell me that my phone was on the network but not where. Thanks for making such a big market for stolen phones, assbags.

  • by codecracker007 ( 789100 ) on Monday November 30, 2009 @11:26PM (#30278916)
    The article sadly doesn't seem to point the Government efforts to provide the non IMEI mobiles with a valid IMEI number. For the last few monthes, a person could have taken their el-cheapo Chinese phones to a designated centre and get a genuine IMEI number 'installed' on the phone for a sum of INR 199 [USD 4]. []
  • So here's the deal.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rexdude ( 747457 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:26AM (#30279282)

    Since I live here, I can shed some more light on what's actually going on:
    1) Knock off Chinese handsets sell at ridiculously low prices compared to the original phones (yet some have pretty innovative features). For eg, I saw a knockoff of the Nokia N73 about a year ago with TV out and support for dual SIM cards. It ran some Chinese imitation of S60, and had all the usual features- camera, bluetooth, infrared, wifi, and cost about 6000 Rs. (about $130), compared to an original Nokia N73 that cost about 12-13k Rs. at the same time. Quality-wise these phones are quite dubious, they can fail at anytime and/or ship with exploding batteries. They're usually popular among the poorer sections of society (mobile phone penetration is VERY high in India- you will find people living in slums in Bombay/Delhi who don't have proper sanitation, but still have a mobile phone of some sort).

    2) As others have mentioned- our mobile market is much freer than the US- operators don't have any say in what phone you use, call rates are the lowest in the world, incoming calls/SMS are free by law. Switching service providers is a breeze, just get a fresh connection and pop in the SIM you want.
    We also have prepaid SIM cards- so if you're visiting here, you can just buy one for about Rs. 300 ($6) and use it, and pay as you go. These have also been used by terrorists in the past- so now you have to show proof of ID and fill out a form before getting one. (Foreign tourists would have to show their passports).

    3) Counterfeit IMEIs are a royal concern for legitimate customers- if an IMEI is blocked it also blocks legitimate users. Also, if your IMEI is being used by a terrorist, it puts you under unnecessary suspicion and subject to inquiry as well.

    4) The concept of privacy is alien to a large part of the population. Part of it is cultural, growing up in joint families, living in crowded tenements, and the general gregariousness with which 2 perfect strangers will end up discussing family matters during a long journey.
    We don't have anything as influential as the EFF in the US, and no one among the educated middle class raised any concerns over the current National ID card [] being proposed. Many in fact have welcomed it, thinking it will help secure the country against terrorism. This is far more insidious and has more potential for abuse than enforcing use of an IMEI.

    and finally, the old proverb- 'Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity' is quite valid for the Indian govt.

    Given the above, especially #2 and 3, it's a fairly sensible move to block counterfeit IMEIs and phones that lack them.

  • Re:Yeah, great idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @03:01AM (#30280104)

    It depends on the country.
    Here in Australia you can report IMEI to your phone carrier and it will be blocked nationwide on all carriers.

  • Re:Yeah, great idea (Score:2, Informative)

    by cyssero ( 1554429 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @04:48AM (#30280634)
    This already happens in Australia - not just banning 'bogus' IMEI's, but IMEI's that aren't unique like the plethora of generic Chinese import phones. Since only "A-Tick" approved phones are allowed on our networks anyway (unless you're a tourist), people who get banned have little to stand on.
  • In Spain (Score:3, Informative)

    by srussia ( 884021 ) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @06:18AM (#30281202)
    They're cutting off service to people using pre-paid cards if they do not identify themselves. Link in Spanish: Los clientes de móvil de prepago tendrán seis meses más para identificarse []

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