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Updated: November 29, 2009 03:01 IST

For whom the bells will stop ringing

Ramya Kannan
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From Tuesday, handsets without IMEI numbers will be useless. Photo:S .Thanthoni.
From Tuesday, handsets without IMEI numbers will be useless. Photo:S .Thanthoni.

On Monday, the Centre’s deadline to weed out mobile handsets without valid International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers expires.

From Tuesday, handsets that do not have a legitimate IMEI number will ring no more. An estimated 2.4 crore such handsets are now being used in the country.

The 15-digit number is like a snowflake; no two numbers can be alike. According to the GSM Association guidelines for IMEI applications, “The IMEI number uniquely identifies an individual mobile station.” It provides a means of controlling access to GSM networks based on mobile equipment types or individual units.

The IMEI consists of a number of fields totalling 15 digits. All digits have the range of 0 to 9 in a binary-coded decimal. Apparently, IMEI numbers are being allotted by five bodies authorised by the GSMA.

By providing your handset a unique identity, the IMEI allows it to be traced when it gets stolen.

The service provider, armed with the IMEI, can also “ban” the phone, rendering it useless even if the SIM card is changed. With the terror perception increasing — terrorists are using handsets with no IMEI numbers — the Union government has decreed that handsets that do not carry a digital tag cannot be used in the country. And it has set a November 30 deadline for phasing these handsets out of the market.

Confirming validity

“Usually it is only the smuggled sets from China and Korea that do not have the IMEI numbers. Branded products will come with a valid number,” says Satish Babu of UniverCell.

You can find the IMEI number of your phone by dialling *#06# on the handset.

To confirm whether the number is valid, send an SMS to the number 53232 with the IMEI number in the message. You will get a reply that tells you whether or not your handset will ring after Monday.

Cost of validation

If you find that it does not ring, there is no need to worry. You can still validate your set by getting an IMEI number from any of the 1,500 centres authorised to issue the numbers throughout the country.

All it takes is Rs.199. Take your handsets along with you as the number will have to be mechanically implanted in the device.

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