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India blocks millions of cell phones

India has blocked service to all mobile phones without a valid identity code, as part of anti-terrorist measures being implemented.
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Written by Tom Espiner, Senior Reporter on
India has blocked service to all mobile phones without a valid identity code, as part of anti-terrorist measures being implemented by the Indian government.

On Monday, any handset without a valid International Mobile Equipment Identity (Imei) code had its connection cut off, according to the Indian Cellular Association (ICA), which represents mobile operators in the country. The mobile industry is complying with a government directive that arose after discussions between Indian security agencies and the Indian Department of Telecommunications, the ICA added.

The Imei, a 15-digit number printed inside a phone, can be used to identify a particular device on an operator's network, meaning it can be tracked by security services. In addition, network providers can use the absence of an Imei to cut off a phone.

About 13 percent of handsets in India are unbranded Chinese imports, according to a report in The Times of India, and these often have a common Imei.

The number of handsets that had been affected by the blocks was difficult to calculate, said Mohindroo. A BBC report on Tuesday estimated that 25 million phones were affected, but Mohindroo said that due to the complexity and size of the Indian mobile-phone system, the ICA would not estimate.

For more, read "India blocks service to millions of handsets " at ZDNet UK.

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