Cheap Chinese mobile phones are posing as a security threat to India as unlike proper, branded handsets, these duplicate copies have fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. They are also eating into earnings of branded manufacturers and posing as health risk to users.
Kashmiri villagers take photographs with their mobile phones in a village near Srinagar. Cheap Chinese mobile phones are posing as a security threat to India as unlike proper, branded handsets, these duplicate copies have fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. They are also eating into earnings of branded manufacturers and posing as health risk to users. (AP Photo)
According to a government source, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which is investigating the recent terrorist attacks that took place in India, fake IMEI numbers make it almost impossible for the law enforcement agencies and investigators to track down suspicious calls.
"SIM card details can be traced from a mobile phone only if it has a valid IMEI number," a government official said, on conditions of anonymity.
"An IMEI number consists of 15-17 digits. Genuine branded phones carry valid IMEI numbers. When the SIM card in a mobile phone gets activated, the IMEI number gets automatically registered with the GSM service provider and it becomes possible to trace a call and find out the caller's identity and the location from where the call was made," the official said.
By using the IMEI number, the security agencies not only can block the handset, but also retrieve call details from the recovered handset.
Even CDMA mobile phones have an electronic serial number equivalent to the IMEI number in GSM mobile phones.
"However, most of the China-make mobile phones carry fake IMEI numbers. In some case, several of such handsets have the same IMEI number. In such cases, it becomes virtually impossible to extract information about the calls made from these mobile phones," the official said.
Another problem, the official said, is that these cheap Chinese imitations are generally sold in gray markets without bills or proper verification made of the buyer and investigators find it a difficult task in identifying the buyers.
In Delhi, these 'Made in China' mobile phones are sold in Palika Bazaar in Connaught Place and Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh.
The official said that these cheap handsets are becoming a security risk and IB has recommended to the Home Ministry and Department of Telecommunications (DOT) to ban the sales of such handsets immediately.