EghtesadOnline: A spokesman for the Anti-Smuggling Headquarters says the long awaited national scheme to curb the huge and growing market for smuggled smartphones will be launched in June.
According to Ghasem Khorshidi, the plan is a joint project between four bodies; the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, the Telecoms Ministry, Communication Regulatory Authority, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, Mehr News Agency reported on Monday .
Khorshidi said, “After preparing the infrastructure, the Telecoms Ministry has outsourced implementation of the scheme to private companies.”
The ministry has signed agreements with the companies and “the plan will be launched nationwide in June.” He did not name the companies, according to Financial Tribune.
The plan requires all mobile phones to be registered with the country’s telecommunications user database. Phones not registered with the database will be considered “contraband” and by the time the new scheme is finally launched will be rendered unusable in the country.
All commercial importers of mobile phones were initially obliged to register the IMEI of their imported goods with the database since November 2015.
IMEI, or the International Mobile Equipment Identity, is a unique number — like fingerprint for electronic devices —that helps identify the serial number of the mobile phones.
The IMEI number is used to identify valid devices, and therefore, can be used for stopping a stolen or illegally imported phone from accessing Iran’s communications network. Therefore, only smartphones and gadgets, which have entered the country through the official customs and legal channels, can be used.
Impact on Users
According to Khorshidi, the launch of the plan will not be retroactive and is related to new phones that will be connected to the country’s mobile network for the first time.
“After the launch of the scheme, owners of phones that have entered the country through the black market can register their devices by paying registration fees.”
He did not say how much registering a cell phone will cost.
The official also claimed that the database is “hack proof” and the identification sequences that will be used for each phone cannot be forged.”
Importance of the Scheme
According to Hussein Qaravi, chairman of Iran’s Imports Federation, affiliated to Iran Chamber of Commerce “Each year 12.5 million cell phones are brought into Iran illegally depriving government coffers $350 million in tax revenues.”
The business official says “Our assessments show mobile phones smuggled into the country in a year are worth almost $2.5 billion.”
Demand in the market is “for nearly 14 million cell phones per year. According to official data, less than 10% of this number enters legally,” Qaravi was quoted as saying.
The scheme was initially meant to be launched in 2016, but poor planning and insufficient infrastructure hampered efforts. Meanwhile importers and the media were not informed properly.
It needs mention that similar schemes were announced in the past to curb cellphone smuggling, but actually nothing happened. No reasons were given for their failures.