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Big Four US carriers vow to switch off stolen smartphones

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In order to combat rising cases of phone theft, America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to create a national database of stolen smartphones with the goal of ensuring that the mobes never work again.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is meeting police chiefs from New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland and a representative of international Telecomms group CTIA later today to announce the new plan which will be fully implemented in 18 months time.

One in three robberies in the US involves the theft of a smartphone, according to the New York Times. The FCC hope to reduce the incentive for phone theft by slamming the brakes on the resale market.

Over the next six months the four big operators – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile – will start to compile databases of all phones on their networks that are reported as stolen. The carriers will then block these units from being registered again. After 18 months the FCC hopes to have merged the databases from the four companies and to introduce a cross-network block on the stolen handsets ever being re-registered, according to the NYT report.

The block would only apply to US phone registered with the Big Four companies.

To reduce phone theft leading to other types of crime such as financial or identity fraud, mobile operators will also commit to giving customers advice on simple security measures such as setting pass codes on their handsets. Networks are already experimenting with tech that would remotely brick stolen mobes.

For the database to work, it would also become a federal crime to tamper with the unique identifiers on a phone.

The full FCC announcement is expected shortly (at 10.00 EDT, 13.00 GMT today). ®

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