Latin American Mobile Operators commit to combat mobile device theft

Thirteen Latin American mobile operator groups pledge to work together across the region to block the use of stolen devices.

Today GSMA Latin America announced the commitment of the main mobile network operators (MNOs) in Latin America to collaborate with the regional governments in initiatives designed to reduce mobile phone theft and related crime. This voluntary initiative of GSM MNOs will allow the sharing of stolen mobile device information in order to block stolen devices and make their trafficking and reuse across the region more difficult.

At a meeting of the Chief Regulatory Officers Group for Latin America (CROG Latin America), public affairs representatives of the regional MNOs agreed on the steps to start exchanging stolen handset information via the GSMA’s IMEI Database. The agreement implies the information shared between MNOs be used to identify devices reported as stolen from users to ensure they are recognised and eventually blocked subject to local regulations.

Javier Delgado, Chair of the CROG Latin America, highlighted 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.”

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 Panama are aligning their efforts to facilitate the identification and blocking of stolen devices. “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 (CITEL) of the Regional Front to Fight against the Theft of Mobile Terminal Devices was a key element of the resolution approved in 2011 by CITEL during the meeting of the Advisory Committee (CCPI). Among the proposals of this resolution, it recommended: ‘Regulating at the regional level the exchange of black-listing databases and blocking their unique identification codes (IMEI) 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’.

“Sharing of information via the global IMEI Database is an important collaborative step that our member MNOs are willing to take and is also proof of how public and private sectors can work together to address specific issues of concern to society and governments,” emphasised Sebastian Cabello, GSMA Latin America Director. “While information sharing can help to reduce crime, it is essential to explore and adopt other measures to ensure appropriate detection, prosecution and punishment of such crimes.”

GSMA member operators that 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 are: América Móvil, Antel, Cable & Wireless Panama, Corporacion Digitel, Entel Bolivia, Entel Chile, ICE, 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. The GSMA 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.