BTRC moves to stem smuggling of mobilephone handsets

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 21 Aug 2017, 22:17:57
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BTRC moves to stem smuggling of mobilephone handsets

National Equipment Identity Register to be set up
Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan


The telecom regulator has decided to go for open auctioning in selecting a contractor entity that would be responsible for setting up a 'National Equipment Identity Register' (NEIR) for all mobile handsets in the country.

 The Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is preparing a technical proposal in this regard, based on which a guideline will be prepared for auctioning, BTRC high officials said this week.

Bangladesh is currently a hotbed for illegal handsets.

According to an estimate of the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association, more than 5 million handsets are being smuggled into the country each year.

Such a smuggled quantity comprises 13 per cent to 18 per cent of the total mobile phone sets in Bangladesh.

It is also estimated that the government is losing around Tk. 6.2 billion each year in terms of revenue from this illegal import.

In this context, the telecom regulator, in recent times, has come up with the idea of establishing NEIR along with an IMEI database to track down the illegal handsets.

Equipment Identity Register is a database that stores and manages the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) data of mobile devices whereas all the mobile manufacturers and importers have to compulsorily register the IMEI address of their mobile devices.

"Instead of developing it with our own budget, we think it would be better to hand over the job of setting up NEIR to any private company", Director General of BTRC Md. Nasim Parvez told FE, adding, "That company would be selected through an open auction".  

"We are developing a technical proposal in this regard. Later, based on this proposal, a full-fledged guideline will be prepared for the auctioning process", Mr Parvez said.

Once established, the NEIR is expected to curb the prevalence of illegal cell phones in the local market and boost revenue earnings from mobile import. It will also help reduce the threat of mobile phone theft by enabling individual operators to prevent the use of stolen mobile devices on their own networks.

"Mobile operators will be obliged to provide IMEI data of all the handsets coming with their SIMs to be recorded in this NEIR so that we can track illegal handsets already in use in the country", said Mr Parvez.

Apart from the Equipment Identity Register, the BTRC is also working to develop an IMEI database for all mobile devices that would be imported into the country in future.

"The relevant software for this planned IMEI database has already been designed. Now, the next step would be to go for procurement process of the relevant hardware", Mr Nasim Parvez said.

"Our target is to operationalise the database by the last quarter of this month", said Jakaria Shahid, General Secretary of BMPIA, the mobile importers organisation that is working with the BTRC in developing the IMEI database.  Around 35 million handsets were imported in Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2016-17 the total sales value of which was around Tk. 95 billion.

In contrast, around 30.8 million handsets were shipped into the country in the fiscal year 2015-16 the total sales value of which was around Tk. 82.72 billion.

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