KOCHI: Owners of Chinese mobile handsets without valid International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers can now heave a sigh of relief. The State will soon have a number of authorised centres where IMEI numbers could be incorporated into mobile handsets which do not have valid IMEI numbers.

As many as 67 such centres will be opened in different parts of the State by next week. The project is being launched as part of a major initiative by the Telecom Department to avert threats to national security through mobile handsets.

In September 2009, the Department of Telecom had issued an order directing cellular mobile service providers not to process calls made from mobile handsets without IMEI numbers.

The order stipulated that calls made from handsets without IMEI numbers or calls from handsets with zeroes as the IMEI number should not be processed with effect from November 30, 2009.

Based on the order, service providers have already started sending messages to subscribers informing that services to handsets without the IMEI number would be deactivated within a specific period of time. It was against this backdrop that the Mobile Standards Alliances of India(MSAI) launched the Genuine IMEI Implant(GII) Program, under which valid IMEI numbers will be installed in handsets without IMEI numbers. As part of the project, various centres were opened to implant the IMEI number in handsets.

The project has already begun reaping results in other states.

Integrated Business Promotions(IBP), Kochi, has been authorised by the MSAI for installing IMEI numbers in Kerala.

“It is found that many subscribers are using duplicate, invalid, null and spurious IMEI numbers on mobile handsets.

It is difficult for intelligence agencies to trace them in emergency situations. It is also found that sometimes a single number is duplicated many times,” said a DoT official. It is found that terrorists often take advantage of this situation.

It was against this backdrop that the GII Programme was launched. The IBP would be launching the IMEI centres across the State by Tuesday.

“Mobile users can send the messages ‘IMEI<space><15digit IMEI number>’ to 53232 to check the genuineness of their IMEI numbers. If the number is found to be duplicate they should implant the genuine IMEI number,” said P Shiva Shanker of IBP.

The proposed centres include the exclusive outlets of IBP and the existing handset service centres.

IBP officials are currently imparting training to executives of the selected handset service centres for IMEI installation.

The online process of installing the IMEI number will take less than 10 minutes, where the user has to provide his photo, identity proof and the purchase bill of the handset, if necessary.

“The IMEI implantation centres are distributed at various parts of the State, depending on the possibility of the use of Chinese handsets. In some specific pockets, the number of users of Chinese handsets is very high,” said Shiva Shankar.