There are more than 141 million
mobile phone subscribers in Bangladesh who use over 100 million handsets, according to Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA).
Each mobile phone has a unique IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number.
However, this huge number of mobile phones will be excluded from the new IMEI database being set up. It will instead preserve IMEI numbers of phones imported from abroad and those made in Bangladesh.
But leaving out these phones will continue to pose security threats, stakeholders say.
BMPIA is building the database that will be controlled by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood said the database was in the last stage of completion. “It will be in operation within the next month,” he said.
Shahjahan said it was not possible to start the database because of a software glitch.
“IMEI of phones that are currently in use will not be preserved in the database. It is not possible,” he said. “We will only include IMEI of new phones that will be imported. This will bring the mobile phones under a monitoring system.”
There is more than one way to check authenticity of IMEI numbers. But since there is no IMEI database in Bangladesh, the authenticity has to be checked manually.
An IMEI database will make it easier to identify illegally imported handsets or phones with fake IMEI. If a phone registered in the database is either stolen or lost, its information will be automatically sent to the database operators when it is turned on.
Stakeholders say mobile phone importers have to submit specific IMEI numbers before importing handsets. These numbers are sometimes submitted in excel sheets or in files.
The BTRC then picks up some random numbers and cross-reference them with handsets before issuing clearance.
Once the database is in operation, the IMEI numbers will be kept in a central database that can be accessed by all concerned authorities. The customs authorities, for example, will be able to look up the IMEI in the database.
Even a mobile phone user will be able to check if his or her handset’s IMEI is valid.
A senior official working in the telecom sector said if the database excluded the mobile phones currently in use, the existing problems would not be solved.
For example, people who conduct illegal activities with these phones will get the opportunity to continue their criminal works. “There are fair grounds to doubt the effectiveness of the new database,” the official said.
State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim had said that until now, there was no system to check IMEI of mobile phones that were being brought to the country.
This made it impossible to prevent the entry of illegal handsets and those with fake IMEI.
“Once the database is in operation, it will be possible to stop inflow of such mobile phones,” she said.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune