Australian telco Vodafone has announced it will block lost and stolen mobile phones from its network, a move which further hinders the market for stolen handsets.
Starting this week, Vodafone will use International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) blocking technology to prevent mobile handsets that have been reported lost or stolen from being used on its network. It is the second carrier in Australia to introduce the technology, after Telstra introduced it in August 2002.
However, Grahame Maher, managing director of Vodafone Australia, said IMEI blocking will only be effective when used by all mobile phone carriers as a joint initiative. "We'll be working with other carriers to share information to ensure they are blocked across all networks. We look forward to the day when all providers are using this method," Maher said.
An Optus spokesperson told ZDNet Australia the company plans to have the technology implemented by 31 March 2003. "The fact that we have different types of mobile technology means we have to implement slightly different IMEI blocking technology," she said. She pointed out that Australia is only the second country in the world to have all the carriers implementing IMEI blocking, after the UK.
The carriers also recommend several steps to further improve security. This includes engraving initials and licence numbers on the phone and battery, setting the PIN and the SIM-card lock, and noting down the IMEI number of the handphone, which can be found by pressing *#06#.
In addition, they urge users to report their missing phones at the time of discovery to avoid potentially exorbitant bills.
According to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Authority, an estimated 100,000 cell phones are lost or stolen each year.