Unregistered mobile phones to become unusable
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has announced that the long-anticipated Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) would become functional on October 20, after which all unregistered mobile phones would become unusable.
The DIRBS is an indigenous solution aimed at combatting the use of smuggled or counterfeit phone sets which either serve to reduce tax revenues for the state, or pose potential health problems to unsuspecting consumers.
“We recommend that consumers buy only PTA-approved phone sets after October 20. A consumer should text the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number printed on the box of a new handset to 8484. But he or she should pay for the handset only after (s)he receives reply that the set is compliant with the regulatory standards,” said the PTA’s director general for services Talib Dogar.
He said the technology will help the authorities counter the problem of counterfeit devices that adversely affects the government, mobile phone operators, distributors, and consumers.
These are the devices that are not registered with the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA) and may be mass-produced by manufacturers that do not comply with international standards of production, resulting in the proliferation of counterfeit, possibly hazardous, mobile phones.
The PTA also said it had legalised the nearly 160mn compliant and non-compliant mobile devices, active on all the networks, before the launch of the DIRBS.
All these devices would not face any service interruption as they would not be blocked by the DIRBS.
“However, a consumer who inserts a SIM (subscriber identity module) card other than the one (s)he was using before October 20 in a non-compliant mobile device after the amnesty period, will be required to register the phone’s IMEI with the PTA within two weeks to be able to continue using the handset,” Dogar said.
Consumers who buy handsets abroad would have to register them in Pakistan by logging on to the PTA’s DIRBS website.
After the one-time registration, the consumer would be able to operate the handset after furnishing information including their identity card number, the IMEI of the handset, and the country where the set was bought.
“In exceptional cases, such users on roaming services, they will be able to continue using their phones without interruption. However, as soon as they insert a local SIM, they will have to register their mobile devices with PTA,” Dogar said.
Another senior officer, Nouman Khalid, explained that in order to create public awareness, the PTA is sending SMSes (short messaging service text) to all subscribers about the status of their mobile devices.
The four types of responses that can be received by a subscriber inquiring about the status of the IMEI include “compliant devices”, which are the PTA-approved devices legally imported into Pakistan.
The second response is “valid devices”, which are the ones having valid IMEIs but which are not PTA-approved.
To facilitate such users, the PTA will auto-register the IMEIs active on mobile networks before October 20, and their status will be compliant after the said date.
A “non-compliant” message means the device either has an IMEI that is not allocated by GSMA, or is duplicated.
To facilitate such users, the PTA will auto-pair all such IMEIs active on mobile networks with specific SIMs before October 20.
After that date, such users will be able to use their devices with paired SIMs only.
Finally, the “blocked devices” message indicates that the IMEI is blocked as this IMEI had been reported stolen earlier.
Khalid said that after coming into effect, the system could help the government increase revenues from $170mn to $200mn on imported phone sets.