Background: IMEI and whitelists of Rossvyaz

    Today is Thursday, which means the time of the next “Reference”. Let's clarify the situation with IMEI. And not so much with the identifier itself, but with the question of creating the “White IMEI” base in Russia. Information about the intention of officials to create such a base did not appear so long ago, and this question causes some concerns to many of us.

    What is IMEI?

    Most of Habr's readers are well aware of what this is, why and why. But just in case, briefly go over what constitutes IMEI.

    IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is an international mobile equipment identifier. This is a number consisting of 15 digits in the decimal representation. There is an IMEI version with 17 digits. The identifier is assigned to devices in GSM, WCDMA and IDEN cellular networks. In some cases, IMEI is assigned to satellite phones.

    IMEI contains information on the origin, model and serial number of the device. The first 8 digits of IMEI determine both the model and the place of origin of the device. The rest is the serial number of the device, which is determined by the manufacturer.

    Who manages all this?

    For the "distribution" is responsible for several organizations, including the GSM Association, BABT (British Approvals Board for Telecommunications) and others. The GSM Association in March 2018 released a new document on the IMEI allocation rules, which lists all the necessary technical details .

    Why do you need IMEI?

    IMEI is required for:
    • Identification in the operator's network;
    • Identification of the phone itself (for example, in case of its theft).

    When connected to the network, the mobile device reports its IMEI to the operator’s network. If necessary, the operator can determine the location of the device with an accuracy of up to several hundred meters.

    If the device is stolen, its user can report the theft to the telecom operator. He blocks the phone, and he can no longer work in the network of the company that blocked him. However, in the networks of other companies can without problems. In the USA, for example, stolen phones that have IMEI blocked are often sold to other countries where they can work (provided that the phone is not tied to a particular telecom operator in the USA).

    In the case of some devices, for example, iPhone, the phone may be listed in the Global black list, and it will not be able to work in the networks of most operators. However, most telecom operators block IMEI of specific devices only when they call on law enforcement or a user who previously owned the device. You can add lost devices to the “black list” - just so that the finder cannot use the gadget.

    And what about the "gray" and "white" phones?

    "White" is usually called phones that come officially in any country. That is, their seller draws up all the necessary documents, pays a tax on imports, and generally complies with legislative norms.

    "Gray" - phones that are imported into the country without the necessary documents, they are not registered. In the media they write that now almost every third smartphone is imported into Russia without certification and payment of customs duties .

    Why do officials need an IMEI base?

    The fact is that with such a volume of imports of “gray” phones, the state loses large funds due to unpaid taxes, registration deductions and all other payments to the budget.

    Officials have long been discussing the possibility of creating a kind of “white IMEI database” that would allow automatically blocking stolen phones in the network of telecom operators, as well as devices imported into Russia (for example, purchased in foreign online stores). Distributors believe that the share of gray smartphones in the sector of Chinese brands is now about 10%, but the total volume of “gray” imports may not even be 30%, but half of the total imports.

    When to expect the appearance of the base?

    So far, there is a stage of discussion, but the project itself is becoming more and more clear - this is not just an abstract idea. The Association of E-commerce Companies (ACIT) has even developed a concept for regulating mobile devices by IMEI numbers.

    AKIT has already sent a document describing the project proposal to Lyudmila Bokova, Chair of the Federation Council for the Development of the Information Society, and Mikhail Abyzov, the Minister of the Open Government. After reading the document, the representatives of Rossvyaz stated that the ACIT proposal was correct and reasonable.

    This concept includes not one list, but three at once: white, gray and black.

    White is officially imported devices allowed for import and use;

    Gray - IMEI, which is temporarily not prohibited to use. If the user of the "gray" device wants to transfer his IMEI to the white list, the telecom operator must provide proof of legal purchase of the device.

    Black - IMEI of stolen devices, or devices that are imported illegally.


    The register is planned to be created on the basis of the Central Research Institute of Communications at Rossvyaz (ZNIIS). ZNIIS already acts as an operator of the database, transferred when subscribers change their numbers.

    The likelihood that the base is still created is very high. Expect legislative action in this regard is already in the near future.

    Are we talking about phones only?

    No, it is planned to add any devices that work with SIM-cards to the IMEI registry. And these are tablets, phones, routers, smart watches, all sorts of security systems and even smart gates.

    Will it be possible to import phones from abroad?

    If they accept the concept proposed by ACIT, then yes. According to it, no more than 1 smartphone per year is subject to transportation. For the first device will not have to pay. But for the second you have to pay $ 20. For the third and all subsequent devices you will have to pay $ 30 already.

    It is interesting that it will be possible to import even devices, the legality of import of which is not documented. In this case, you will have to add another $ 10 and pay for such a gadget (or rather, for the right to import it) about $ 40.

    And yes, if the phone is imported from abroad, the user will have to register it in the white registry.

    Well, can I change IMEI?

    Yes. But only to do this can be quite difficult. This is especially true for Apple devices. Change IMEI can be official and illegal. In the second case, it is a criminal offense.

    For iPhone, the legal way is to contact an Apple service center in your country. You must specify the reasons for the change and attach the required documents (the list may be different for different companies). One of the reasons is the discovery of the phone after it has been stolen.

    Easier - for gadgets on Android. For a number of phones (far from all devices), specialized software and a data cable will suffice. But again, it is worth remembering that changing IMEI is a criminal offense, so before doing anything, consider whether it is worth it.

    How to deal with foreign tourists?

    So far, the concept proposed by ACIT says nothing about this. However, it may well be that officials will use the IMEI processing model of the country's guests, adopted in Turkey. Local laws allow both foreigners and citizens to use smartphones that are purchased outside of Turkey, but only for a limited time. If the statutory deadline expires, the IMEI device must be registered. So far this is only an assumption, but it may well become a reality.

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