25 million mobile handsets may turn into paper weights in India on April 15, 2009.
Chinese handset manufacturers have flooded the Indian market with over 25 million handsets over the last few years and these phones do not have IMEIs. What is an IMEI you say?
An IMEI is a unique 15-digit code that identifies the handset. Each time a call is made, the mobile network operator uses the IMEI to identify the caller via a universal registry of phones. If a phone lacks an IMEI, the telecommunications company can still route the number to the destination, but it does not know which phone is making the call. Therein, rests the problem: India's Department of Telecommunications in the Ministry of Communications and I.T. believes these anonymous IMEI phones could be used by terrorists of any stripe or color.
India's Dept of Telecomm relayed to mobile operators in India that in " the interest of national security, all Indian telecom operators should focus on implementing checks of IMEI within two months." That was in October 2008. Now April 15 is the deadline. Wireless service providers in India are expected to disconnect mobile phones that lack IMEI on April 15.
While Indian mobile phone users can verify their own IMEI numbers by pressing *#06# on their handsets, what if the consumer is among the unlucky 25 million who are holding one of these 25 million handsets lacking an IMEI? The DoT estimates the 25 million phones lacking IMEI in India account for about 10% of the total phones used in the country.
Indian users are clearly concerned.
And what of the Chinese mobile phone manufacturers, are they inclined to remedy this? Indeed, where is the responsible action from the Indian operators in the first place? Seems nothing at the moment for or from both.
And the ripple effect could spread to financial markets: consider both Vodafone and Airtel could have their stock price effected if suddently these phones turn into bricks. Considering that it is likely these phones are used more by bottom of the pyramid consumers than top, to get these users back, the mobile operators will have to subsidize ever more new phone purchases. A continuing drag could develop.
Wonder what tomorrow will bring?