After completing the biometric registration of all mobile-phone SIM card holders, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has now launched a drive on a pilot basis to register handsets.
Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar inaugurated the programme entitled "National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR)" virtually on Thursday.
"This initiative is aimed at stopping those involved in manufacturing, importing and selling illegal mobile phone sets. We want mobile phone users to be able to use their handsets and SIMs safely," Mustafa Jabbar said at the event.
In this system, the IMEI of handsets will be registered along with the users' national identity card and SIM number. All phones that were in use before 30 June this year will be automatically registered against the SIMs inserted in them.
Phones that have been bought since 1 July will have to be registered, the minister said, adding that the registration programme will be conducted experimentally for three months. "After that, all illegal or out-of-network unregistered handsets will be deactivated."
While buying a phone set now, one must check the validity of the phone before making a purchase. All necessary documents of the handset must be preserved for future use.
BTRC Commissioner AKM Shahiduzzaman said in order to verify the validity of a mobile handset, one has to go to the message option of the phone and write KYD <space> the 15-digit IMEI number and send it to 16002.
Drawing the attention of the stakeholders, Mustafa Jabbar said, "We have to make sure that the registration of mobile sets that were in operation in the country till 30 June is being completed properly...Consumers should not be harassed in any way."
A local company named Synesis IT is assisting the BTRC in carrying out this task. In this work, they are scrutinising 103 crore pieces of information received from mobile operators and the people concerned.
BTRC Chairman Shyam Sunder Sikder said this measure is important for the cyber security of the country. "It will increase our dignity in the world. We will protect the common people for sure, but will act tough against smugglers.
"Teletalk has asked for time and we have given them the time. But, we expected better response from companies like Grameenphone."
Brig General Md Shahidul Alam, managing director of the Spectrum Division, said, "None of the old sets will be closed. Now when a new handset is turned on, it will remain active. The customer can know through a text message whether the set is valid or invalid. If invalid, the subscriber will be given at least 10 days to validate the handset. The set will continue for three months even if it is invalid. After three months, the government will make a decision.
"We are trying to make sure ordinary people do not suffer. But, we want to master the whole process in three months. Necessary changes will be made by this time. The mobile operators are co-operating us in this. Teletalk wanted some time. But they are with us and cooperating."
Md Afzal Hossain, secretary to the Posts and Telecommunications Division, said the introduction of this system will help to increase the government's revenue, bring transparency in transactions, reduce cybercrimes, bring back discipline in various fields, and reduce fraud and harassment of customers.
Shahab Uddin, managing director of Teletalk, said, "Teletalk has not yet joined the process. We will be connected in September."
He expressed optimism that this initiative will increase revenue by at least Tk1,200 crore.
How to register a phone received as a gift or bought from abroad
If a mobile phone set – bought legally or received as a gift from abroad – is brought to the country and turned on, the network will be activated automatically. However, to make the set valid in this new system, registration has to be completed within the specified timeframe.
If invalid, it will be kept connected to the network for the period of the pilot programme. Once the time is over, further action will be taken as per the decision of the government.
According to government rules, a person can bring a maximum of two mobile phone sets from abroad without paying duty and six more subject to payment of duty.
However, it was not stated clearly for how many times one can bring home phone sets in this way. The BTRC will monitor how many phones are being activated against a SIM.
To know the current status of a mobile phone that is in use, one has to dial *16161# and follow the following instructions. In addition, any information about mobile handsets can be found on the BTRC's help desk and on the near.btrc.gov.bd website.