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Thursday, April 19, 2007

GSMA disagrees with NCC over IMEIDB

Umbrella body of the global mobile telecommunications and Third Generation (3G) operators, the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA), has disagreed with the nation’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the management of the International Mobile Equipment Identify DataBase (IMEI-DB) in the country.

It would be recalled that recently NCC began tinkering on involving private entities outside the telecom operators in the management of IMEI-DB, and the commission has started to receive expression of interests, including some United States-based IDSV International, led by a Nigerian telecommunications specialist, Mr. Prince Uchendu, among others.

Equally confirming this move, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC boss, Dr. Ndukwe was recently quoted as saying, “a common platform would ensure that interoperability issues were easily overcome and stolen phones could be tracked and blocked easily across the networks of operators.”

As said by him, each of the operators would have the software for monitoring mobile phones installed in the networks, the theft monitor cum administrator would keep a database of stolen phones, which would be made available to the networks whenever a phone is reported stolen.

But reacting to the proposal in a chat with Champion Infotel, Director, Fraud and Security at GSMA, Mr. James Moran, said, “GSMA discourages operators from developing their own national databases for a number of reasons.”

He noted that though GSMA welcomes any initiatives that are designed to combat handset theft and is willing to work with the operators in any country to ensure the most effective and cost efficient solution is put in place, it does not believe it makes sense for operators to set up their own applications as one already exists that is free-of-charge.

“We do not believe it makes sense for operators to set up their own application as one already exists that is free to use and is capable of hosting any national or regional database requirements they may have. GSMA’s overriding objective is to help support operators to establish solutions that operate at maximum efficiency and minimum cost,” he said, stressing that the IMEI Database (IMEIDB) provides the best facility to allow the Nigerian operators to exchange stolen handset data.

“It does not make sense for them to set up their own application as the IMEIDB already exists for this and it is free to use,” he insisted, emphasising that IMEIDB provides operators with the functionality they required as it was designed by operators for operators.

“Avoids duplication of effort that the development of a local database involves by preserving the concept of a global database of stolen phones and avoids fragmentation as well as saves the Nigerian industry the significant costs associated with developing and maintaining a duplicate database,” Mr. Moran declared.

He pointed out that by deploying GSMA-based IMEIDB, operators would ensure hat handsets stolen in Nigeria are also barred on the networks of other operators connected to IMEIDB.

“This ensures more effective barring than would be the case if the data were simply shared on a Nigerian database only,” he said.

Many operators around the world, he said, have already implemented initiatives to combat handsets theft that revolve around the IMEI database and having worked with those operators we would also like to offer our assistance and support to the Nigerian operators should they require it.

He explained that it does not make sense for the Nigerian operators community to set up a national database as IMEIDB, stressing that GSMA is of the view that by setting up a national database as IMEIDB outside GSMA would not be helpful to the Nigerian telecom subscribers.

“We’re of the firm view that it makes no sense for the Nigerian operator community to set up a national database as our IMEIDB is available to them free of charge and it is capable of hosting any national or regional database requirements they may have,” he said.

Mr. Moran also advised the telecom operators and NCC not to proceed with the proposed plan to have a private entity manage the IMEIDB outside GSMA.

“It is my fervent hope that the Nigerian operators agree not to proceed with any project to develop a local solution, as this will only duplicate what already exists but at significant additional cost for the industry,” he said, reiterating that GSMA is willing to support the Nigerian operators should they wish to establish a solution to combat handset theft and believes the IMEIDB provides the perfect platform.

Mr. Moran further warned, “It is important that the Nigerian operators avoid the fragmentation that would result if they embarked on a senseless and expensive project to duplicate what already exists within IMEIDB.”

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