Since early morning, mobile phone users have been receiving messages from the Nepalese telecommunications regulator: “your phone has been registered”.
Indeed, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the regulatory body, launched the Mobile Device Management System (MDMS) on Thursday, months after it was planned.
In a notice released on Thursday, the authority said that mobile devices brought personally from abroad until September 15 will be automatically registered in the MDMS.
The authority asked people to buy phones only by checking whether or not they are registered on the MDMS from September 16.
“The basic idea is to eliminate gray market mobile imports. The system will prevent sales of phones without a bill or warranty,” said Purushottam Khanal, chairman of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority.
“The gray market will be totally shut down right after the system goes live.”
According to the Customs Department, the import of mobile phones increased by 10.75% to Rs 40.89 billion in the last fiscal year which ended in mid-July.
Nepal imported 5.76 million phones in the last fiscal year.
Traders say the import figure is huge as almost 50% of phones are imported illegally, without paying taxes.
Officials say that the chances of cellphone theft will be minimized and criminal activities carried out through the use of cellphones will also be reduced.
Mobile phone importers and distributors must also obtain the mandatory permission from the authority before importing mobile phones, the authority said in the notice.
People who bring new phones into the country, especially from abroad, must be registered within two weeks.
People are allowed to bring two phones – one they use or a personal phone and another brand new – when entering Nepal.
“If people bring more than two phones, they have to pay customs duties when submitting the purchase invoice,” Khanal said.
To register the new phones, users must submit a photocopy of the citizenship certificate or a scanned copy and a scanned tax invoice online in MDMS. “It’s free,” Khanal said.
“If the posts are not registered, within two weeks the phone will be blocked,” Khanal said. “However, the user will receive a notice to register the phone before it is blocked.”
In the case of foreign tourists, they must register the phone within two weeks, Khanal said. Tourists can register their number by sending a copy of their passport and visa. “There is no entry fee,” Khanal said.
Their mobile will be allowed to operate in accordance with the visa period, he said.
Importers who bring and sell phones by illegal means are not registered.
MDMS is security software that allows the telecommunications regulator to implement policies that secure, monitor and manage end-user mobiles.
The system will be synchronized with a database called Equipment Identity Register which contains records of legal and illegal mobile devices in the country. The system should also identify cloned and low-cost versions of branded phones with fake registration numbers.
The telecommunications regulatory authority decided to develop the system four years ago after the publication of the 2018 mobile device management system regulations.
The system put in place by the telecom regulator consists of setting up a data center where the personal files of the owners of mobile phones registered on the network of the three telecom operators in Nepal will be stored.
In June 2019, the telecommunications regulator selected the Malaysian company Nuemera as the service provider to implement the system.
Nuemera entered controversy in 2017 following revelations that a similar phone blocking system developed as part of an outsourcing model for the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission turned out to be at risk. origin of a data leak that affected 46.2 million subscribers in Malaysia.
The authority said there was a problem with Nuemera, but the Malaysian regulator had already clarified the issue.
The telecommunications regulator said the system was being built at a cost of 650 million rupees.