From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), IMEI
Mains level : Privacy concerns associated with mobile phones
- In a bid to curtail the rampant cloning and theft of mobile phones across the country, the Telecom Ministry is ready to roll out a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) — a database of IMEIs, the 15-digit numbers that uniquely identify each mobile device.
Central Equipment Identity Register
- The concept of a central identity register is advocated by the GSM Association (GSMA), a body representing mobile operators, equipment manufacturers, and software and internet companies, among other stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem.
- In India, the plan to prepare the registry of mobile identification numbers was first conceived in the National Telecom Policy-2012.
- A pilot for the project was developed and conducted by state-owned BSNL’s IT Project Service unit in Pune.
- In the interim budget for 2019-20, the government allocated Rs 15 crore to the DoT for the CEIR project.
How will database work?
- In line with global practices, DoT’s identity register will be a database of IMEI numbers that will consist of three lists – white, grey and black.
- Mobile phones with IMEI numbers in the white list will be permitted for use, while those in the blacklist will be the ones that are reported stolen or lost and will not be allowed to access the network.
- Devices with IMEI numbers in the greylist will be the ones that do not conform to standards but will be permitted to connect under supervision.
Utility of CEIR
- Once implemented in the coming weeks, consumers in India whose mobile phones are lost or stolen can inform the Department of Telecom (DoT) via a helpline number after filing a report with police.
- The DoT can then blacklist the IMEI number, effectively blocking the mobile device from accessing any cellular network in the future.
- The CEIR will have access to GSMA’s global IMEI database, allowing comparison of IMEI numbers to identify counterfeit devices.
Why it is important?
- The theft and cloning of mobile phones have become a serious problem.
- The theft of mobile phones is not just a financial loss but also a threat to personal life of the citizens as well as national security.
What is IMEI?
- The International Mobile Equipment Identity or IMEI is a number, usually unique to identify 3GPP and mobile phones, as well as some satellite phones.
- GSM networks use the IMEI number to identify valid devices, and can stop a stolen phone from accessing the network.
- For example, if a mobile phone is stolen, the owner can have their network provider use the IMEI number to blacklist the phone.
- This renders the phone useless on that network and sometimes other networks, even if the thief changes the phone’s subscriber identity module (SIM).
- The IMEI only identifies the device and has no particular relationship to the subscriber.
- The phone identifies the subscriber by transmitting the International mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) number, which it stores on a SIM card that can, in theory, be transferred to any handset.
- However, the network’s ability to know a subscriber’s current, individual device enables many network and security features.