The Indian government mandates IMEI number registration to prevent mobile phone tampering.

The International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), a 15-digit number that uniquely identifies each mobile device, has been mandated by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for all mobile phone manufacturers to register with the government. Before importing a phone, importers must also register the IMEI number with the authorities.

This is in accordance with a notification dated September 26 that all domestically produced or imported phones must henceforth be registered and issued IMEI certifications by the Department of Telecommunications’ Indian Counterfeit Device Restriction webpage.

On January 1, 2023, new rules will go into force. According to the Department of Telecommunications notification, “The manufacturer shall register the international mobile equipment identity number of every mobile phone manufactured in India with the Indian Counterfeit Device Restriction portal of the government before the first sale of the mobile phone.”

According to the statement, “before the import of the mobile phone into the country,” the IMEI number of mobile phones brought into India for sale, testing, research, or any other purpose must also be registered on the same government website.”

The Indian Counterfeit Device Restriction portal must be notified of the IMEI number of imported mobile phones before they are allowed into the nation, according to a directive from the Center. IMEI numbers detected in mobile phones that are false or duplicates have been the subject of numerous complaints. All cell phones sold in India must have individual IMEI numbers, per regulations. Imported cell phones from all brands are also subject to this restriction.

GSM, WCDMA, and iDEN mobile phones can all be identified by their respective International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers.

Even though dual SIM mobile phones have two IMEI numbers, every mobile phone has a unique number. The IMEI number can be used by the user to determine whether the mobile phone is real or false. If phones are stolen, utilizing the IMEI numbers makes it easier to locate them.

Why is there now so much focus on IMEI numbers?

Unknown to the uninitiated, each phone has a unique 15-digit IMEI number that serves as the device’s unique ID. Due to several fake handsets being rolled out on networks with similar IMEI numbers, worries have been raised about the inability to track lost phones.

The Communications Ministry has previously implemented a Central Equipment Identity Register to stop the widespread cloning and theft of mobile phones. Based on their IMEI status, mobile phones are divided into three categories by the identification register: white, grey, and black. Mobile devices with IMEI numbers on the white list are allowed to access the network, whereas those with IMEI numbers on the blacklist have been reported as stolen or lost and are not.

While noncompliant with standards, devices with IMEI numbers on the greylist are nonetheless allowed to connect under strict supervision. The register also enables IMEI-based “lawful interception” by the DoT.

The site simply needs to ban locations for lost or stolen phones as of right now. However, the CEIR project aims to address the issue of stolen phones and the problem of counterfeit electronics. With this notification in effect, it will be necessary to register even the IMEI numbers of gadgets brought into India on the IDCR system.

According to the announcement, “The importer shall register the international mobile equipment identity number of the mobile phone imported in India for sale, testing, research, or any other purpose with the Indian Counterfeit Device Restriction portal of the government of India in the Department of Telecommunications before import of mobile phone into the country.”

Since January 2020, IDCR has been used and can register and produce IMEI certificates without charge. This took the place of the previous IMEI registration system, which was run by the Mobile Standard Alliance of India (MSAI), a for-profit organization.

The government announced regulations in 2017 to prevent tampering with phone IMEI numbers by making it a criminal offense that carries a potential jail sentence. A pilot for this project was carried out in Maharashtra after the DoT stated its intention to implement it in July 2017. “Mobile phone theft and phone cloning have grown to be severe issues. In addition to causing financial damage, the theft of mobile phones puts consumers’ personal safety and national security at risk. Another problem for DoT is the market’s prevalence of fake mobile phones.” According to a DoT office memo from the time, “a sizable number of counterfeit mobile phones are currently functioning in our mobile networks with fake IMEI numbers.”