Finding out whether a mobile handset is original or not is a challenge for a buyer in Bangladesh, as there is no valid database of mobile devices in the country.
But the wait could soon be over, as Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association has got go-ahead to establish an IMEI database, which would help cut the use of illegal handsets, combat crimes and boost government revenues.
The association will set up the international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) database of all imported handsets by December this year The IMEI is a 15-digit unique identification or serial number that all mobile phones have. It is used to identify valid devices and stop a stolen phone from accessing the network it uses. People have to dial *#06# to instantly see the IMEI on the screen of a handset.
Once the database is ready, the trade body will begin the registration of the handsets being imported.
The system will be located on the premises of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) with the technical and financial assistance of the association although the system will be run jointly. It will help create a database of legally imported or locally manufactured handsets and cut the use of illegal devices, top importers said.
It will also help the government earn several hundreds of crores of taka from handset imports, they said.
Prospective buyers will be able to check the legality of a set through the system before making any buying decision.
Ruhul Alam Al Mahbub, president of the association, praised the BTRC and the government for recognising the importance of the system and for extending help to initiate the project. Mahbub, who is set to establish a mobile handset plant with the assistance of Samsung in Bangladesh, said illegally imported mobile sets are creating threats to the national security. “Along with other benefits, this system will also help combat security threats.”
Last year, importers brought in 3.34 crore handsets, which accounted for 70 percent of all the devices imported. The sets contributed about Tk 2,000 crore in import duties. The rest 30 percent handsets are brought in by dodging import tax.
“It is a timely and essential system. The system will help boost the government revenue and combat many crimes carried out using mobile phones,” said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the telecom regulator.
Md Nasim Parvez, director-general of the spectrum management division of the BTRC, described the initiative as a good example of a joint collaboration between the government and the private sector that will benefit businessmen, the government and the mobile phone users.
Besides barring illegal handsets to be activated by the mobile phone operators, the customers would also get scope for checking the genuineness of handsets through the IMEI database, the BTRC official said.