Costa Rican cell telephone providers block an average of 285 mobile devices a day, mostly at the request of their owners after the phone has been lost or stolen.
Since April, cell telephone companies here have been creating a blacklist of telephones that may not be reconnected, and now the concept is being formalized in other Latin American countries.
That was the report from the government’s Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones after a meeting of cell telephone executives in Panamá last week. Thirteen Latin American mobile operator groups pledge to work together across the region to block the use of stolen devices, according to GSMA Latin America, which represents 800 mobil communication operators in the world.
Cell telephone thefts or robberies are big business, and there are firms in San José that stay open 24 hours a day in order to handle the purchase of the devices from crooks. These operations have ways of fixing the telephones so they can be put in the marketplace for buyers who are not bothered by their possible history.
In fact, Fuerza Public officers detained a man over the weekend who was selling cell telephones to passers-by on the downtown pedestrian mall.
Cell phones have unique identification numbers that make them easy to track. Although participation in the blacklist is optional for phone companies, all of those approved for service in Costa Rica have agreed to check the numbers on phones before hooking them up. Most of the major service providers are expected to do likewise elsewhere.
GSMA said its member operators are committed to connect to the stolen handset database and to implement measures to block stolen terminals in all countries where they operate in Latin America. They are: América Móvil, Antel, Cable & Wireless Panama, Corporacion Digitel, Entel Bolivia, Entel Chile, The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Tigo Colombia,
Nextel/NII Holdings, Nuevatel PCS Bolivia, Orange Dominican Republic, Telecom Italia and Telefónica.
The agreement, full implementation of which is expected to conclude in March 2013, covers more than 500 million mobile connections throughout the region, said the agency. GSMA said it will continue working to promote the adoption of these guidelines to all GSMA member companies in Latin America through the signing of memorandum of understandings among operators on a country-by-country basis.
Javier Delgado said that: “This joint effort by all regional operators to be part of this initiative will help regulators in our countries to face and address this scourge.” He is chairman of the Chief Regulatory Officers Group for Latin America, which held the Panamá meeting.
This coordinated action by mobile operators is already showing results in Central America, where industry and telecommunications regulators in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panamá are aligning their efforts to facilitate the identification and blocking of stolen devices, he said. “The idea is to build upon the experience of collaboration between telecom operators and governments carried out in Central America and expand it country-by-country throughout the region over the next six months,” said Delgado.
The creation by the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission of the Regional Front to Fight against the Theft of Mobile Terminal Devices was a key element of the resolution approved in 2011 by the commission’s advisory committee . Among the proposals of this resolution, it recommended regulating at the regional level the exchange of blacklisting databases and blocking their unique identification codes to prevent the activation and use of cell phones stolen in other markets and helping to control illegal trafficking of devices among the region’s countries.
In many cases, local telephone service providers have their own blacklist data base that automatically sends the numbers to the regional lists. The blacklist is updated every 24 hours, said the Superintendencia.