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Millions of mobiles blocked by Indian authorities

No ID, no call

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. ®

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