Telstra said that, between 1 December 2004 and Australia Day, 26 January, it had disabled access to more than 7,600 handsets after their owners reported them lost or stolen.
The carrier's managers warned that the numbers did not include February, traditionally one of the worst months for lost or stolen mobile phones since Telstra introduced handset blocking in 2002. Last summer, a record 16,079 mobiles were reported lost or stolen to the carrier.
"Mobile phone theft and loss increases over the summer, because people are out and about in popular public places where thieves target, such as beaches," Telstra consumer and marketing customer segment head, Jenny Young, said.
Telstra said anecdotal evidence from customers pointed to the top five places that people lost their mobiles as being cars, pubs and clubs, restaurants, public transport and taxis and, finally, outdoor venues including beaches and sporting events.
While Telstra declined to place a value on the number of mobiles lost or stolen, handset prices generally range from AU$100 or under to AU$1,500.
Telstra introduced serial number blocking on GSM mobile phones in 2002, preventing them being used on the carrier's GSM network. There is also an inter-carrier arrangement for the blocking of GSM mobiles. Before 2002, the carrier only blocked a user's SIM card, meaning a handset could simply be re-used with a new SIM card.