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.

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 (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, effectively blocking the mobile device from accessing any cellular network in the future. Alongside this, the stated objectives of India’s CEIR specifically refers to facilitating “IMEI-based lawful interception”. India had 1.16 billion wireless subscribers as of March 2019, according to TRAI data.

What is the need of Central Equipment Identity Register?
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. Counterfeit mobile phones in the market are another issue for DoT. A substantial number of counterfeit mobile phones are active in our mobile networks with fake IMEI numbers.

In India, the plan to prepare the registry of mobile identification numbers was first conceived in the National Telecom Policy-2012.

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.

The concept of a central identity register is advocated by the GSM Association (GSMA), a body representing mobile operators, equipment manufacturers, software and internet companies, among other stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem.