The Government has found 18,000 mobile phones having fake identity numbers. The fifteen-digit number, called International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), is supposed to be unique to each handset. This enables security and law enforcement agencies to pinpoint the actual user.
However, handsets sold in the grey market do not come with this identity number — a matter of concern for security agencies, especially because most of the handsets are brought into the country from China or Taiwan.
“At present, it is difficult to differentiate between the original handset and the duplicated one with same IMEI. But the Department of Telecom is examining the issue,” Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said in the Rajya Sabha.
The DoT, on April 29, 2009, had directed that calls from mobile handsets with fake identity numbers should not be processed. The Ministry of Commerce has already banned import of mobile handsets without IMEI.
But, despite these measures, import of unbranded Chinese handsets has grown four-fold in three years from 5.5 million in 2007-08, according to the Indian Cellular Association. The industry body has been asking the Government for stricter action against fake phones.
But the ban imposed by the Government on offering mobile services to handsets without a genuine IMEI number remains mostly on paper. That is because operators continue to offer services to users owning handsets even without the identity number.