Mobile IMEI number game

I remember a joke about an engineer and a politician debating on who is more productive and result oriented among them. The engineer claims since he has organised everything in a proper order across the world which was in a mess, he is more efficient. The politician simply says, but tell me who created that mess? Funny, isn't it? But this is what happens to every issue, problem in our country.

Take for example, the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) issue. As per DoT and security agencies in India, mobiles with fake or no IMEI number, mostly imported from China and hence called Chinese mobiles, can pose security risks and should be banned. DoT had even issued tough directives to ban use of these handsets, but since then, the order has been postponed twice, following "reservations" from mobile service providers and importers.

Chinese handsets have a 15-digit IMEI number while genuine handsets, or rather those handsets sold with a bill and warranty from reputed brands, come embedded with a 16-digit IMEI that can be easily tracked by the operators.
Almost all the mobiles, which come in India, do have an IMEI number, but some China-made phones carry a fake IMEI number which is the issue. Also, the problem was not just of IMEI numbers, it is the import of these so called Chinese mobiles, which are smuggled into India.
As per market information, the illegal trade of importing and selling Chinese mobiles in India alone accounts for about Rs70 billion and about 20% to 25% subscribers use these handsets. The industry obviously scared of losing millions of subscribers has taken some damage control measures. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has tied up with the Mobile Standard Alliance of India (MSAI) to set up 1,600 retail outlets across the country to implant IMEI numbers on these handsets for a fee of about Rs200 for each instrument.
However, there are more questions regarding the IMEI implant itself. With software like this, it is now clear that an IMEI number can be implanted into any handset, so what is the assurance that such programmes will not used for other, mostly stolen handsets, in the future as well? Secondly, there is a website to check genuine IMEI numbers (, but when I checked some IMEI numbers, it showed the numbers as genuine and issued somewhere in 2001-2002 for the primary market of Europe while the handsets were made in China and are in use in India.
This brings out other, more serious questions about the origin of the IMEI number. Suppose, if there is one Chinese handset with an IMEI code but the IMEI code belongs to some other manufacturer and a defunct handset like the Nokia 5110, then how can the mobile service provider ban such handsets? Since the mechanism to check originality of IMEI numbers is restricted, in terms of infrastructure, data sharing between operators, I wonder whether this (the ban on fake IMEI) will sustain?
On the surface, banning handsets with fake IMEI looks like a good idea, but it is not sufficient. The issue here is not of banning the use of these mobiles with bad or non-genuine IMEI numbers, but to curtail the highly prosperous illegal trade of mobile imports, which is going on since the last few years, through the porous borders along Pakistan and Nepal.
The illegal trade of the so-called Chinese handsets mostly takes place via Pakistan through the Rajasthan route, with a few consignments coming in via Nepal. Due to the turmoil in Nepal, the Pakistan route is supposed to be safer, as there are very few restrictions. Most of the time, the smugglers work hand in glove with the authorities in Pakistan.
In this scenario, it would be interesting to see how DoT, COAI and MSAI would keep the deadline. Will there be another extension for the ban, in order to import some more illegal handsets into the country? Well, we don't know, but what we know for sure is that the market for Chinese handsets continues to glitter.
-Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]
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    A new high
    Here is a piece of great news for the airline industry. Qatar Airways has become the first carrier to fly an Airbus A340 plane on natural gas fuel. The plane is powered by Rolls-Royce engines using a 50-50 blend of synthetic gas-to-liquids (GTL) fuel. That will cut down sulphur, corrosion, carbon dioxide and other emissions. Additionally, this type of fuel increases the flying range of aircraft.

    The airline industry has been asked to bring down emission levels by 10% in the recent G-20 summit. The world airline industry has 19,000 planes consuming 208 billion litres of fuel every year causing an emission of 540 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The Qatar Airways experiment seems like a viable answer.

    World powers are constantly seeking alternative fuels to reduce emission levels. Earlier, the erstwhile USSR has used aircraft fueled with alternative fuel like liquid hydrogen, liquefied natural gas 20-25 years ago. The USSR had used propane-butane fuels to fly helicopters in the 1970s.

    In gas-run planes a fuel leak can be determined immediately because vapours form a concentration measurable for gasometry instruments. A gas leak leaves the crew with a better probability of escape. Gas has a higher combustion value than aviation fuel, which could improve the weight characteristics of aircraft.

    In addition, aviation fuel may last for another 20-25 years whereas gas reserves are expected to last for the next 100 years.

    Qatar has the world's third-largest gas reserves. GTL, although more expensive than kerosene, has a higher density and high calorific value that implies that more can be pumped into a plane to extend its flying range.
    - Dhruv Rathi [email protected].

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    IIT ditches alumnus
    Young graduate student Buddhi Vikram is still languishing in US prisons since 2006 for allegedly sending threat mails to the then President George Bush and all efforts of his father, another IIT alumnus, to garner support have failed. The IIT alumni were supposed to take up Vikram’s case with former President Bill Clinton during his address to the PanIIT 2009 conference held earlier this week at Chicago, but allegedly could not muster up courage to do so.
    This has started a fresh debate among the IIT alumni about their annual conference itself. Moneylife has come across some chain mails that are doing rounds on the Internet about PanIIT’s failure to take up Vikram’s case.
    Vikram was arrested in April 2006 and charged on 11 counts, including charges under US Code 871, which deals with threats to the US president and his successor. If proved guilty, he could be sentenced to imprisonment up to 60 years. Vikram graduated in mathematics with an MSc degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, stood first in the class and received a silver medal from IIT.
    According to Dr Buddhi K Subbarao, a former defence scientist who worked with the Indian Navy, and father of Vikram, PanIIT association conference organisers at Chicago buckled under pressure from US authorities. "It is amazing to me to know the twists and turns from the events at the PAN-IIT Conference," said Dr Subbarao, who holds a PhD in nuclear technology from IIT Bombay.
    Echoing the same feeling, one of the attendees at the PanIIT conference, Ajeet Saxena, said, "These (the PanIIT fellows) are the guys who were not even known within their own batch and are now looking for some public recognition and scenes of importance by holding some 'public' office. They are goody-goody, out to maintain status quo, please all those in authority and somehow pose for photo sessions. They have nothing to do with matters of truth, righteousness and justice—as advocating any of these three requires courage and involves risk. Championing the cause of truth and justice antagonises people in powerful positions—people on whose crumbs these creatures thrive, and one faces the danger of not only losing the privileges offered by the establishment but even the risk of being victimised. So, don't expect anything from them."
    Another IIT alumnus, who attended the conference after some reluctance, Samir Kelekar has termed the behaviour at the conference as a "tamasha". He said, “I didn’t see any difference in the PanIIT tamasha in Chennai. In fact, nothing of any consequence of social political change was taken up or (issues of more importance) followed up. While some of us fight for democracy and freedom of speech, others just are not concerned, but just 'suck up' to authorities and perhaps are trying to strike good business deals."
    Earlier in August, Dr Subbarao, in an appeal to SM Krishna, external affairs minister, India said, ”Vikram is awaiting his sentencing at a US prison in Chicago. In prison, he has been conducting himself in a dignified manner, teaching mathematics to inmates as per the formal program prescribed by the prison authorities, and in the rest of the time making a serious and in-depth study of US Federal Criminal Laws with the hope that a time would come where some US Court would apply its judicial mind to secure the ends of justice and his life and liberty would be restored to him.”
    So while Vikram continues to languish in a US prison, his fellow alumni from IIT were not even bothered to help him. Do we have to say any more on why we, the citizens of India, lack patriotic spirit?
    -Yogesh Sapkale [email protected]
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