Over two crore subscribers with handsets without the international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number lost their cellphone connection following a government order in this regard.
Though some mobile operators and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to extend the deadline from November 30, the latter has refused to do so.
In view of terror attacks and heightened security arrangements, central security agencies requested the DoT to ban mobile phones without the number as they cannot be located or tracked in the absence of the unique 15-digit mobile identification number. The DoT has finally decided to act after repeated reminders and notices to telecom firms.
Though there is no exact figure on how many phones without IMEI numbers are operational in India, industry estimates put it anywhere between 2-2.5 crore. These cheap phones are mainly illegal imports from China and other nations in the Asia Pacific region.
Leading mobile operators including Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are among those who have started disconnecting phones without IMEI numbers. “We are disconnecting all those phones which are through the non-IMEI handsets,” said Vodafone Essar Director T.V. Ramachandran.