US carriers join forces on stolen phones database, play catch up to rest of world

Keeping track of stolen phones has become increasingly important as more users have expensive smartphones, according to an analyst

Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile are joining forces with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to work on curbing phone thefts using a central database that will store information about stolen phones, according to reports.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, along with law enforcement and representatives from the wireless industry, will announce the plan Tuesday. Operators will disable and block further use of a device once it is reported stolen, according to the New York Times.

It is too easy for thieves to steal phones and sell them on the black market, the Times quoted Genachowski as saying. "This program will make it a lot harder to do that. And the police departments we are working with tell us that it will significantly deter this kind of theft," he told the newspaper

Over the next six months, each of the four operators is expected to put in place a program to disable phones reported as stolen and within 18 months the FCC plans to help merge them into a central database in order to prevent a phone from being used on another carrier's network.

Sharing information about stolen mobile phones is far from a new practice in countries other than the U.S. The GSM Association has allowed operators to do that since 1996 when it established the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), now known as the IMEI Database, according to a spokeswoman at the industry organization.

U.K. operators have been using the IMEI Database to exchange stolen handset data since 2002. Operators in Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and Venezuela use the database as well, she said via email.

It is surprising that U.S. operators haven't come around to sharing information about stolen phones, according to Mark Newman, chief research officer at market research company Informa Telecoms & Media.

"It is hard to find a reason why they haven't done it before," said Newman.

However, U.S. operators have a checkered history when it comes to joint initiatives. For example, it took them a long time to set up SMS interconnection, allowing users to send text messages between operators. That has partly been a function of a fragmented technology approach, Newman said.

"One could only imagine how the benefits would have accrued the operators if they had done this at an earlier stage," Newman said of the central database.

But better late than never, because trying to curb device thefts has become even more important as an increasing number of users have expensive smartphones, according to Newman.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?