About 250 lakh handsets are expected to be out of service from April 15, as GSM service providers, including Airtel and Vodafone, gear up to deny connectivity to cell phones without International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
Concerned over the national security, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked operators to disconnect services to handset that does not have an IMEI number. IMEI is a 15-digit code which appears on the operator’s network whenever a call is made.
If all service providers adhere to the deadline given by DoT, nearly 250 lakh handsets, which are almost 10 per cent of the total GSM mobile phones in use in the country and mostly China-made, are likely to go out of service, industry sources said.
Analysts feels that the move is also likely to hit the revenue of telecom firms as phones which have no IMEI numbers are usually low-cost and unbranded and used by low-end subscribers.
To get these subscribers back on the network would be a challenge for the telcos as they have to provide these subscribers subsidised or free handsets.
In October 2008, DoT had set December 31, 2008, deadline to stop services to handsets without IMEI numbers. The deadline has been extended to April 15, 2009.