Connections will be terminated at the end of this month, immediately stripping out an estimated eight per cent of India’s 375 million mobile phone users. India’s mobile phone rolls are growing by around 12 million per month.
Unlike mainstream manufacturers, many cheap Chinese handsets on sale in India have no International Mobile Equipment Identity IMEI) code, which means neither ownership nor the user’s position can be traced when it is switched on.
Officials believe a number of terrorist attacks, including one on Delhi last year, were carried out by militants using Chinese mobiles detectives were unable to trace.
While mainstream mobiles leave a personal IMEI code on each call, and can be ‘triangulated’ between three mobile phone masts to identify the user’s location, Chinese handsets simply show a set of zeroes.
Most of their owners in India have not been terrorists but young people looking for a cheap phone with all the features of a Western brand like Nokia or Motorola. One popular Chinese model sells for 50 pounds, but features Bluetooth, camera, MP3 player, multi-media messaging, and video player.
An estimated 800,000 Chinese handsets flood into India every month, while last year the figure was even higher – 1.5 million.
India has gradually tightened its regulations following a series of terrorist attacks in Delhi, Mumbai, and Jaipur.
In one particular attack, in Mehrauli, a suburb of Delhi, detectives were unable to track those fleeing the blast site because their suspected Chinese handsets were unidentifiable.