India has blocked service to an estimated 25 million mobile phones lacking valid identity codes over concerns criminal or militant groups could use them to organize attacks.
Mobile phones with a blank or all-zero International Mobile Identity (IMEI) code went dead at midnight Tuesday as a result of a government security directive that became law in October 2008.
The 15-digit IMEI number can be used to identify a handset on an operators network, allowing individual calls to be traced to the phone it came from. Phones without a valid IMEI are usually inexpensive, unbranded handsets manufactured in China.
According to the Times of India, Chinese-made handsets account for about 13.3 per cent of the country's total mobile market.
India's government claims these untraceable phones are a potential security threat when in the hands of unsavory individuals. The Indian Cellular Association urged compliance with the rules:
"Terrorists and dangerous elements may have taken cover under the illegal and fictitious IMIE mobile phones, which could have been used to trigger a series of criminal activities," the trade organization wrote in an October newsletter.
"As a part of the great mobile trade and industry, we believe that by disallowing the existence of illegal IMEI numbers in our telecom ecosystem we can play a greater role to strengthen our nation's security requirements," it continued.
The government has allowed operators to provide a new unique ID number to phones that don't comply with the new regulation. ®