The GSMA maintains a unique system known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity Database (IMEI DB), which is a global central database containing basic information on the serial number (IMEI) ranges of millions of mobile devices (e.g. mobile phones, laptop data cards, etc.) that are in use across the world’s mobile networks. The IMEI is a 15-digit number that is used to identify a device on a mobile network.
The GSMA allocates official IMEI number ranges to all manufacturers of 3GPP compliant devices and records these ranges and device model information in the IMEI DB.. The information recorded includes the manufacturer name and the model identifier of the associated handset and some of its technical capabilities (e.g. frequency bands supported by the handset, etc.).
The GSMA provides access to the IMEI DB and its data to GSMA member mobile networks operators and to qualified industry parties (i.e. manufacturers of device management products and regulatory authorities). Network operators use the information to determine what types of devices are being used on their networks, and what features the devices support, so they can offer the latest services to their customers.
As devices have become more sophisticated and more expensive, they are also more attractive to thieves. Recent years have seen an increased need for the IMEI DB to be used as a tool to combat handset theft by ensuring the identities of stolen devices can be shared across networks around the world. The IMEI DB also supports what is known as a “black list”. The black list is a list of IMEIs that are associated with mobile devices that should be denied service on mobile networks because they have been reported as lost, stolen, faulty or otherwise unsuitable for use. This list is stored in the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) which acts as a central system for network operators to share their individual black lists so that devices denied service (blacklisted) by one network will not work on other networks. The engagement of governments and law enforcement agencies with the network operator community continues in a number of markets where handset theft is perceived to be a problem and the GSMA strongly encourages use of the IMEI DB as a platform to exchange stolen handset data. All GSMA operator members are welcome to connect to the system free of charge. To learn more about the IMEI database, please click here.
Mobile phone users whose devices have been stolen should note that GSMA does not add device IMEIs to the IMEI DB blacklist or otherwise assist with incidents of device theft. Device theft should be reported to the subscribers service provider and to the police. For more advice on how to reduce the chances of your device being stolen, and what to do if your device is stolen, click here.