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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

GSMA decries Nigeria’s absence in IMEI-DB

The umbrella body of mobile communications operators under the aegis of Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA), has decried the absence of Nigeria in its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) database (IMEI-DB).

Speaking to Champion Infotel exclusively on the missing of Nigeria, the fastest growing GSM market on the African continent in IMEI-DB, the Director, Fraud and Security at GSMA, Mr. James Moran, lamented the situation that after over five years, none of the operators has shown keen interest in being part of the IMEI database.

“At present, there are no Nigerian operators connected to the IMEI Database and I am not aware that any of them has any plans to do so,” he said.

Mr. Moran also said that efforts to contact Nigerian GSM operators in this respect in the past following media reports on increase of stolen mobile phones did not yield any fruit, even with the efforts of the regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

According to him, efforts to join IMEI-DB heightened in year 2004 but did not last long as none of the operators eventually came up to endorse relevant papers officially.

“In 2004 it appeared that barring of stolen handsets was on the agenda and there was an expectation that the operators would commit to the initiative by signing a binding agreement. However, to the best of my knowledge nothing ever came of this,” he said.

Mr. Moran also expressed disposition of GSMA to accommodate any of the willing operators to join in the fight against handset theft.

“GSMA is always willing to help operators combat handset theft and we are willing to work with, and support the efforts of, the Nigerian operators if they wish to undertake any positive initiatives,” he said.

He also said, GSMA has engaged operators in many countries around the world in relation to various initiatives to combat handset theft and he is ever-happy to offer the same help to the Nigerian operators, so as to enable them benefit from the experience of GSMA expertise.

GSMA, he pointed out, is well placed to help its members with the sharing of stolen handset data by offering the use of the IMEI database, that was introduced in 1996 to provide a facility to which GSMA members could connect to upload and download stolen handset data.

“We believe the IMEI database is a suitable vehicle to host a Nigerian national database and we have provided IMEI data sharing facilities to operators in many countries free of charge. We are currently working with operators in a host of other countries to ensure that they also have the necessary tools to allow them use the IMEI database,” the security chief said.

He emphasised the resolve of GSMA to offer the Nigerian operators the opportunity to use the IMEI database as a facility to exchange stolen handset data and more willing to support them to establish a suitable solution for combating handset theft with maximum efficiency and minimum cost.

“We do not impose any sanctions on operators that fail to take remedial action as handset initiatives tend to be voluntarily undertaken in individual markets by industry working in partnership with government and law enforcement,” he told Champion Infotel.

GSMA, he said, recognises that unsupported deployment of EIR’s by member networks is of limited value in terms of effectiveness in combating handset theft. Although EIR deployment, and connection to the IMEI Database, could help, “it is critical that other parties who have an interest in combating handset theft can engage fully to implement appropriate crime prevention measures.”

He further gave some specifications mapped out by GSMA to encourage operators to include implementation by handset manufacturers, of which the industry agreed technical principles to be used in preventing the change of handset IMEI’s, use of the industry initiated IMEI reporting and correction process by handset manufacturers and operators to report and correct identified IMEI security weaknesses.

As said by him, GSMA also assist thorough investigation of mobile phone-theft related crimes by law enforcement agencies and the maintenance of appropriate statistics to measure the scale of the problem and to monitor progress made.

He maintained that the introduction of specific legislation by national regulators/governments to criminalize the reprogramming of IMEI’s such as what has happened in France and the UK and is under consideration in a number of jurisdictions.

“It is hoped that a holistic range of measures, such as those listed above, will complement the deployment of EIR’s/CEIR and greatly enhance the value of each of the other measures in an effort to reduce handset theft related crime. Where this has happened, like the UK, handset theft rates dropped significantly in a short period of time,” he submitted.

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