System to block illegal mobile handsets to be introduced soon

ISLAMABAD: A system called Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) to block illegal and counterfeit mobile handsets being used across the country, would be introduced soon. The DIRBS will enhance government revenue by allowing devices imported through proper channel and will not only monitor devices being brought into the country in future but also check installed base of devices currently active or being sold in the channel. The system would also support blockade of stolen and snatched phones, if their IMEI numbers are reported to concerned bodies. As per reports on Thursday, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is designing the DRIBS which would operate as centralised equipment identity register to discourage influx of mobile handsets and tablets imported through grey channel at cost of public safety and tax revenue to national kitty. The 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),” the authority has sought feedback of the stakeholders including mobile handset makers, mobile phone companies and consumers in order to take an initiative as per recently introduced Telecom Policy 2015. Sources said that with the launch of 3G/4G services in the country for past two years, the arrival of hi-tech handsets are on rise but the higher taxes on handsets opened the door of imports through improper channels or smuggling or through unauthorised 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. Sources further said the system will use IMEI of device along with other parameters and help in identifying, monitoring and regulating such devices adding that it will have capability to help identify counterfeit and illegally imported mobile devices that avoid collection of tax revenues and contribute towards security issues. PTA quoted examples of nine countries-Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Colombia, UAE, Uganda, Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, which have already set up a centralised system to overcome the issues of counterfeit and illegal devices and negative repercussions in their territories in the past, and successfully achieved results. The authority has said that influx of illegal devices is mainly misused in criminal and fraudulent activities. The proposed DIRBS will enable identification and blocking of these illegal and invalid devices in the market and active on mobile phone networks with help of cellular operator and handset makers and consumers. The authority, within the framework, will also 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. The mobile phone companies will report to PTA any devices latched on to their network and reported or identified as stolen and mobile operators will block stolen terminal equipment once reported. They said that end users and retailers should verify IMEI validity of devices adding that PTA will manage and install the required hardware, software and infrastructure through its own resources. 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.

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