Network of illegal handsets barred
Illegal handsets will not get network connectivity from today as the government look to curb the menace of duty-dodging while importing mobile phones, which also undercuts the competitiveness of the locally assembled devices.
With that end, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on July 1 installed the National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR), a central database for International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), a unique 15-digit identification or serial number inbuilt in mobile phones.
At present, the import tariff for smartphones amounts to about 57 percent, while for feature phones it is about 35 percent.
In preparation for the rollout of the NEIR, the telecom regulator has registered all handsets in use in the local networks until June 30.
The trial period of NEIR, which was developed by Synesis IT, ended yesterday.
Between July 1 and September 30, 1.08 crore handsets were activated in Bangladesh, according to data from the BTRC.
Of them, the proof of import of 29 percent of them is yet to be established.
"I have told the BTRC to ensure that consumers do not suffer while trying to stop the illegal import of handsets," Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, told The Daily Star yesterday.
All shops that sell mobile phones should hang the notice of how to verify the legitimacy of the handsets should be made compulsory in all the shops, he said.
Before buying a new handset from the local market, customers have been urged to verify its legitimacy by sending a text message to 16002 containing the following: KYD(space)15 digit IMEI number.
The IMEI numbers are printed on the handset's box. Buyers can also find it by dialling *#06#.
The customer would be informed in reply whether the handset is legal or not.
If anyone sells illegal handsets, the seller has to refund the price of the handset as per the customer's claim, the telecom watchdog said, adding that legal action will be taken against the retailers of illegal handsets.
Those who bought handsets abroad for personal use or received them as gifts have been urged to register the handsets by visiting the website neir.btrc.gov.bd.
There has been a drop in sales of illicit mobile phones after the NEIR technology was introduced, said Jakaria Shahid, the secretary-general of the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers' Association.
"It will benefit us further when the new technology programme starts in full swing on October 1," he said.
Bangladesh has 17.7 crore active mobile connections as of July, according to data from the BTRC.