Every year, government loses around Tk3,000 crore in revenues due to illegal import of the mobile phones
The Bangladesh telecom authorities are using the country's first National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR) system to disconnect all the unregistered and fake phones from the mobile networks.
Using the technology, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) may need hardly a month to identify the phones which were either imported illegally or have a fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
The BTRC has already prepared a database of legal devices and hopes to complete the installation work of the NEIR by June 9. The trial of the technology will begin on July 1.
“Some 15 crore handsets are currently being used across Bangladesh. Of them, 40% entered the market illegally or were brought in from abroad. However, all the unauthorized handsets that consumers started using before July 1 will be brought under the approval of the NIER registration program,” BTRC Director General Brig Gen Md Shahidul Alam told Dhaka Tribune.
The NIER registration program will pave the way for the authorized importers of mobile handsets by restricting the use of illegal handsets. It will help prevent cloning and theft, and boost revenue collection.
Most people buy SIM cards from local top-up shops where unscrupulous traders use someone’s NID to provide SIM cards for others.
“Before starting this process, our first goal is to inform the people about it. From the first week of June, we will conduct campaigns all over Bangladesh starting from the remote areas,” the DG said.
Anyone will be able to check the legality of the imported handsets using the database simply by sending an SMS. The NEIR system will work for a provisional period of 15 days and the trial run will continue from July to September.
Later on, necessary changes can be made based on user experience, if needed, to ensure that the technology remains friendly for the users even in the remote areas.
How will this new technology work?
Whenever any SIM card is inserted into a handset, it will send a signal to the BTRC database where the IMEI numbers of the authorized handsets are stored. The SIM card will only be functional if the handset’s IMEI matches with the database.
A person will be able to use multiple handsets using a single SIM card, but, the BTRC is yet to release more details in this regard.
If a handset is not found in the BTRC database after an active SIM card is inserted, the BTRC will keep the handset’s IMEI on its white list for seven days to let the user register the phone using legal documents of import or purchase.
Those using handsets purchased from abroad can register them by submitting valid documents to the BTRC.
If a user wants to sell his handset, he will have to unregister the handset via the specific website so that the new user can re-register it under his or her name in the database.
Corporate offices will enjoy some exceptions as their SIM cards get frequently changed.
According to the spectrum department of the BTRC, there is a demand for 3 crore handsets in Bangladesh every year. The government loses a large amount in import duties and taxes when the handsets enter the country through illegal channels.
Every year, the government loses around Tk3,000 crore due to illegal entry of the mobile phones to the market.
“At present 12 companies are locally manufacturing mobile handsets in Bangladesh. It is possible to make much more profit by buying phones from local manufacturers at a reasonable price,” BTRC Director (signal) Lt Col Mohammod Faisol told Dhaka Tribune.
“In the first three months, we will run the NEIR technology for modifications, trial and error process. Then, we will address the issues raised by the users and apply it in full swing,” he added.