Mobile phone users will get a chance to register handsets brought from aboard with the proposed National Equipment Identity Register (NEIR), an initiative to curb the use of the illegal device and increase revenue from the sector.
The system will reduce the threats of mobile device thefts by enabling operators to prevent the use of stolen phones through IMEI or International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), a unique number for every device.In wake of concerns among the users of mobile handsets brought from abroad, Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the general buyer of mobile phones will get a chance to log the device with the proposed registering system through respective operators.
The importers and local assemblers will submit the IMEI numbers of all devices to the NEIR system to Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.
“The government will enrol the service only for curbing smuggling of mobile phones. There is no intension to harass general users. A customer can bring a specified number of devices from abroad following immigration rules. They can activate the device through submitting papers to customer centres of respective operators,” Mustafa Jabbar explained.
Some 35 million mobile handsets are sold annually of which 30 per cent is imported illegally. Around Tk 30 billion transacted in this regard and the government losses revenue of Tk 15 billion, according to an industry insider.
Minister said the device brought from abroad at the individual level are ‘legal’ as they come through a process in immigration.
“However, the player in the grey market, known as luggage party, dodges a huge amount of taxes through brings handsets illegally. We want to identify the sector,” he said.Mustafa Jabbar further mentioned that the database will help the government to identify the users of handsets to curb crimes.
Regarding the existing handsets in the mobile phone market, Minister said the telecom regulator will continue to operate drives in different markets to identify the illegal handset and device.
Mobile handset manufacturers welcomed the initiative as the equipment register will bring transparency in the market curbing any kind of offence through tracking the device instantly.
Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA) former President Rezwanul Hoque said the equipment register not only brought transparency in the sector but also increase government’s earnings from the sector.
“Those who buy phones from abroad; they paid tax to the foreign market. In this case, the Bangladesh government loses revenue. Initially, the telecom regulator will offer registration opportunities for the customer as the authorities yet to decide on the taxation on phone bought from abroad,”
Rezwanul, also chief executive of Transsion Bangladesh, told the Daily Sun.
Regarding the readiness of the equipment register, Rezwanul mentioned that the industry is ready as almost all brand excluding Nokia and Xiaomi are assembling handset in Bangladesh.