NTA guideline to track lost mobile handsets

The telecom sector regulator will soon introduce a guideline that will make it easier for users to track lost mobile handsets and curb illegal imports of cell phones.

The Nepal Telecommunications Authority is drafting a guideline on implementation of long-overdue equipment identity register (EIR) system, which will help in tracking people who use mobile phones to issue threats and controlling illegal call-bypass due to which telecom companies are losing a certain chunk of their revenue per year.

Although the government has been talking about introducing such a system for the last four years, no concrete measure has been taken to achieve that goal. However, there are high hopes on implementation of the system this year, as the budget unveiled for the current fiscal has mentioned about formulating an operational manual on EIR and introducing it.

Once the government introduces EIR system, telecom companies will have to enroll the International Mobile Equipment Identity, a unique number that is normally given to each mobile phone by the manufacturer, in their database. Also, mobile phone importers will have to declare IMEI of each mobile set they bring from abroad at customs offices.

Handsets without type approval and IMEI record in the government database will not operate here, NTA officials told THT.

A team under the coordination of Ananda Raj Khanal, NTA officiating chief, including representatives from telecom companies, is conducting study on EIR implementation and preparing a guideline. “Hopefully, we will be able to complete the task within a month,” said Khanal. According to him, the guideline will address many issues, including who will maintain central database of IMEI, the responsibility of customs offices and the NTA, and deadline for operators to enroll IMEI numbers in their system.

Based on the EIR system, telecom companies can mark an IMEI number as being invalid if a set is stolen or is not type approved. Besides controlling illegal import and trade of such phones, EIR provision will also help prevent illegal call bypass and use of mobile in criminal activities as location of device can easily be identified tracking the IMEI number.

Earlier, a study ‘Impact Assessment of Revenue Waiver’ conducted by the Ministry of Finance had recommended that the customs

offices allow import of mobile sets only after submission of type approval certificate issued by NTA and declaration of IMEIs of handsets being imported to curb illegal import. Despite waiver in customs and excise duty and 60 per cent rebate in import of mobile phones by the government, illegal import is still huge.

According to Mobile Traders Association of Nepal, an estimated 40 per cent of total annual demand is being addressed by smuggled phones from countries like India, China and Singapore. Since major brands like Colors, Spice, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Karbonn and Micromax are also manufactured in India, prices are comparatively cheaper there, a reason why smuggling to Nepal is taking place.

NTA officials said Ncell was well equipped for this system and Nepal Telecom’s 10 million mobile lines also contain features for EIR system. Once the government strictly implements the provision giving a certain time, all others will have to make EIR compulsory, they said.

Anomalies remain

KATHMANDU: It is not clear how cell phones, tablets and fablets brought into the country by Nepalis living abroad and foreigners

will function here, as International Mobile Equipment Identity, a unique number that is normally given to each mobile phone by the manufacturer of those devices, will not be in the records of the customs offices. It is also not clear how mobile devices extended as gifts by those living abroad will function here. “These confusions will be cleared by the time the EIR (equipment identity register) implementation guideline is finalised,” an NTA official said.

Source: THT