The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has decided to formulate a policy to curb the use of illegal handsets through third parties.
According to the minutes of the 221st meeting of the commission, the commission has finalised a set of draft guidelines and sought the opinion of telecom operators and other stakeholders on the issue.
The BTRC will issue a licence to the National Equipment Identity Register Company. The commission will call an open tender for the National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR).
According to the commission’s meeting, the NEIR is required in the context of increased use of handsets and wireless appliances and the increase in their imports. It is important to set up the NEIR to prevent thefts of mobile handsets, prevent the entry of illegal mobile handsets, increase government revenues and ensure national security, the minutes of the meeting observed.
On 19 June 2017, after taking the initiative to set up the NEIR, the commission at its meeting in December last year constituted a committee to prepare a draft policy for this purpose. A BTRC official said the prevention of illegal handsets and national security issues were acquiring importance here.
According to the draft policy, the mobile operators themselves will register the handsets that are in use on its network, through which it can access information like the unique IMEI numbers of handsets, SIM numbers and national ID cards.
While the customers will not be inconvenienced by the regulations at present, they will face problems when switching devices at a later date: they must provide proof of purchase of the handset to the operator for it to work.
Up to three handsets can be brought tax-free from abroad. The handsets must be registered at the customer service centre of the mobile operator by showing proof of purchase. On the other hand, no other SIM will work in the stolen handsets if its original user raises a claim with proper documents.
Also, after some time, all SIMs will become inactive on the handsets that are not legally imported, according to the regulation.
In the national database, three types of handsets will be categorised as ‘white’: those imported legally or duly assembled by the local assembler after payment of all taxes.
Handsets that were illegally imported by inbound passengers will be marked ‘grey’. Those carrying such handsets will be barred from the network after a certain period.
There will also be a ‘black’ category, comprising stolen handsets, expired IMEIs and fake IMEIs. These handsets will never be live on any mobile network in the country.
The guidelines also state that some numbers will be registered as VIPs so that the filtering process can be overridden at the special instructions of the government.
“Currently, the annual handset market is worth at least Tk. 10,000 crore, of which illegal parties account for some 30 per cent,” Mohammad Mesbah Uddin, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA) said.
The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is a unique number that identifies the authenticity of a device. It is usually found printed inside the battery compartment of the phone and can also be displayed on-screen on most phones by entering *#06# on the dial pad.