Sucheta Dalal :Chinese handsets to go on COAI to provide new IMEI numbers
Sucheta Dalal

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Chinese handsets to go on, COAI to provide new IMEI numbers  

May 4, 2009


Non-compliance and the fear of losing about 25 million subscribers, you call it what you will but the so-called Chinese mobiles will continue to be in service as the seemingly “tough” directives of the Department of Telecom (DoT) were nullified by a set of interested parties.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has tied up with Mobile Standard Alliance of India to set up 1,600 retail outlets across the country to provide international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number to these handsets for a fee of about Rs 200.
On the other hand, reliable IMEI number retailer – Geek has started a new customer registration portal for genuine IMEI mobiles. Customers will have to register their handsets on the portal, which would be forwarded to COAI and mobile service providers.
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 16-digit IMEI that can be easily tracked at the operators end.
All these arrangement appeal to the DoT, which was eager to appear tough and ban services to these Chinese handsets by mobile services providers. The DoT can claim it acted in a tough manner and the operators would be more than happy to retain about 25 million customers.
But the most interesting part is the "money" involved in this business. According to unofficial information, the Chinese handsets business in India is worth over 70 billion rupees! This explains the various "forces" eager to save the handsets from being banned.
And remember the government does get a single penny in custom duty or tax on Chinese handsets as all of them were imported through dubious channels. Surprisingly, the government and the mobile operators association is keeping mum on the revenue loss.
So all this drama turned out to be just pre-poll negotiations between “interested” parties like the importers with political nexus. In the end the users get to keep their handsets while the mobile services providers retained subscribers and the “business” continues.  - Yogesh Sapkale

-- Sucheta Dalal