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EghtesadOnline: Following the launch of the Mobile Registry Scheme in December 2017, close to 250,000 smuggled cellphones have been detected and disconnected from local operators’ networks by mid-June 2018.

With the aim of discouraging cellphone smuggling, the ICT Ministry, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, the Communication Regulatory Authority (CRA) and the Industries Ministry created the so-called scheme according to which local operators are barred from offering services to contraband phones.

Based on data released by the CRA, between December 2017 and June 2018 close to 1.5 million handsets were registered and 250,000 cellphones were countermanded and disconnected from the networks of local operators. 

 

Detailed Timeline

To prevent a shock in the huge cellphone market, implementation of the scheme is phased depending on the cellphone brand, according to Financial Tribune.

CRA published a detailed timeline of the scheme, saying that the initial phase started on Dec. 5, 2017, disconnecting contraband iPhones. Since then over 64,500 smuggled iPhones were disconnected.

Motorola, Google, and BlackBerry followed and since Dec. 29 of that year 7,400, 68 and 1,400 handsets were rendered unusable. 

Blocking unregistered LG phones started on Feb. 17, 2018, resulting in 18,200 blockages. 

In early March 2018 Nokia and Huawei phones were targeted. By June 21, 2018, 73,000 Nokia and 68,500 Huawei handsets were barred from all services from operators. 

Sony, Techno and Xiaomi were screened from March 17, 2018. According to data, 6,400, 79 and 1,853 handsets made by the three were undone. 

Since April 20, 2018, Samsung and other brands were screened and 127 contraband Samsung handsets were blocked. 

Nokia, Huawei, and iPhone are said to be leading the pack in terms of blocked mobile phones brought into the country illegally. 

 

 

Rules of Foreigners

The move is in line with curbing suitcase trade of cellphones. In December 2017, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration said incoming passengers should not carry more than one cellphone and should  pay 18% of the value of the phone as tax at the time of entry.

Travelers including expats visiting home, foreign tourists and businesspersons are exempt from the new rules for 30 days from the date of arrival.

If they want to extend their stay they should register their handsets with IRICA and pay the 18% tariff. After the exemption one-month period, unless the handsets are registered, the device will be blacklisted by the CRA and local operators will not be able to offer services to such mobile phones.

 

 

Technicalities

For implementing the scheme, local authorities use an online database of the IMEI, or the International Mobile Equipment Identity number of the functioning handsets. IMEI is a unique number, like a fingerprint for electronic devices that helps identify a mobile phone. 

As of November 2015 all importers of mobile phones must register the IMEI with the database.

The IMEI number is used to identify valid devices and  only cellphones that have been brought in via legal channels can be used.

Since the registry scheme was launched, importers have been given a “registration code” by IRICA for each handset after paying the import tariff. Dealers are required to give the code to customers at the time of purchase.

Mobile phone buyers are required to activate their handsets through an online database named Hamta under the address hamta.ntsw.ir.

On the website, users should enter the new handset’s IMEI code, the device registration code and the phone number. After the data is logged, the handset will be activated in the local mobile network.

The IMEI code is usually found inside the battery compartment of the cellphone, but can also be displayed on the screen on most phones by entering *#06# on the dial pad.

According to an earlier IRNA report, head of the Tehran Telecom Traders Union Mehdi Mohebi said,   "The scheme has been successful and the stringent rules helped reduce cellphone smuggling to a significant extent."

 

Iran Disconnect Smuggled Cellphones Mobile Registry Scheme