We first reported this topic on May 6th of 2016 and it has been a few years since this has been in the process. The Government of Nepal (GoN) stated that Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) would start keeping records of electronic devices from Baisakh 2073 (2016 April). In 2021, NTA initiated its IMEI registration program through EIR. This system keeps a record of all cellular network-connected mobile devices. There are multiple reasons for implementing this. But along the process and implementation, there has been a lot of confusion. So this article is compiled to help you understand the reasons for the implementation and process to register your IMEI number.
NTA has started a new program in 2021 to keep records of all running and imported mobile electronic devices in Nepal. There has been a lot of confusion and questions lurking around. So we have compiled this elaborate article to help everyone understand the reasons for implementing IMEI registration in Nepal. We are also discussing the process of registration. In this process, we are going to clear up some confusion while discussing the pros and cons of this. So let us start from the beginning of all this in 2016.
In 2016, the whole process started for the implementation of IMEI number registration in Nepal. It took many years and a lot of things changed over these years. In 2021, a major step was taken when the IMEI registration system went live on July 16th, 2021. However, the true launch of the MDMS system happened on September 15th of 2022. Even that launch was a soft launch because the full-fledge system is still in development.
- NTA IMEI Registration and MDMS
- IMEI Number Registration Process Background
- How to Check IMEI Registration in Nepal?
- Purpose and Reasons for compulsory IMEI registration
- People’s perspective on IMEI Registration in Nepal: Pros and Cons
NTA IMEI Registration and MDMS
IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity, and this is a unique identifier found in every cellular network-capable device such as a smartphone, tablet, and laptop. MDMS stands for Mobile Devices Management System and that is a new system in Nepal installed by NTA to keep records of unique identifiers of all cellular devices. Here, cellular devices mean electronic devices that support cellular networks using SIM, RUIM, or eSIM. All smartphones and feature phones have SIM support. Some tablets and laptops also have cellular network support for data and calls.
MDMS is a system that is integrated with government, NTA, and network providers such as Nepal Telecom, Ncell, and Smart Cell. The management system keeps records of mobile unique identifiers such as Equipment Serial Number (ESN) and Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID) of cellular devices, including IMEI. These three things are unique to any mobile device, and they help to identify them in a network. The system helps to keep track of all devices active in any network in Nepal.
IMEI Number Registration Process Background
As we reported earlier, people had to go to the office, fill out the form and submit a photocopy of a government-issued ID in the past. After that in 2018, a web-based system was introduced for registering IMEI numbers. In 2021, a new system was started where people could just fill out the form online and submit it for approval. This was allowed through the initial Equipment Identity Register (EIR) system that went live on July 16th, 2021. Since September 15th, 2022, Mobile Device Management System (MDMS) system has been implemented so the whole registration system has moved to it.
Until last year or before September 15th, 2022 the IMEI registration was being done through eir.nta.gov.np which is the Equipment Identity Register (EIR) portal. As of now, the registry is done through mdms.nta.gov.np which is a mobile device management system portal, and the service from the eir.nta.gov.np registration portal is closed.
We have described the whole process of registering IMEI number through the MDMS system in Nepal in another detailed article so do read that.
Developments and Implementation of the System
In 2016, there was a lot of confusion. Therefore, we went to the NTA office to ask the officers. The officers told us that there are phases for implementation. First is “Phase One” up to Karthik of 2073 (November of 2016). This period was for educating people about this program. However, this went on till the first half of July 2021. Meanwhile, offline registration of IMEI/ESN/MEDI was going on from the office using forms from 2016. People needed to submit a registration request form with mobile phone details, and personal details and attach a government-issued ID.
NTA published a notice on 11th May 2018 regarding the expression of interest (EOI) for designing, developing, testing, installing, and commissioning the system in Nepal. Three companies from India, Malaysia, and Singapore were vested with the tender. In the meantime, NTA started online EIR portal. The development process took about two years. Then finally, the EIR system was implemented in Nepal by NTA on 2021 July 16th. Then finally MDMS was implemented on September 15, 2022.
How to Check IMEI Registration in Nepal?
You can follow these steps on how to check registered IMEI number in Nepal to ensure you have a model that is registered and imported correctly.
- Open NTA’s portal for checking IMEI registration. Go to “mdms.nta.gov.np/public”
- Determine whether you want to check the IMEI number of your existing phone or the phone that you are purchasing. If you are checking the registration status then you can check IMEI from the mobile dialer and if you are checking for a new phone, the numbers are on the box pack. If the phone is from the official distributor with a hologram and genuine warranty they are already registered by the company while importing but still, you can do a re-check to confirm if the seller is providing genuine or grey products.
- Find your IMEI Number. Dial *#06# on your dialer and get the number/s. In a single SIM model, there is just one IMEI number but in the case of all dual SIM models, there are two IMEI numbers. You can see that two numbers come after we dial *#06#. So just check the 15-digit number before ‘/’ if you have ‘/’ showing up. Else just use the 15-digit number. Usually Nepali market has dual SIM phones everywhere in all price ranges.
If your IMEI Number is already registered in the system then the system shows the message shown on the left of the below-given image. In case your IMEI number is not registered then the message that is shown on the right of the below-given image is shown.
If your IMEI number is not registered then you can use the MDMS system to register your IMEI number by following due process.
Purpose and Reasons for compulsory IMEI registration
Many people import and gift phones from foreign countries. People also buy phones from India as there is an open border and many people live there. Many people send phones to their friends and family from the gulf, USA, Europe, Australia, and more. Back in 2016, we also asked the NTA officers about the reason and purpose of the registration. We also asked concerned people and people in the smartphone business about this. We also saw many videos and read lots of articles to gather ideas.
There are quite a few reasons for the implementation of IMEI registration in Nepal. The reasons are technical, economic, and legal. Mainly the government wants to track illegal phone imports, increase revenue and block mobile devices used in illegal activities. Let us explain these in brief.
1) Track Illegal phone imports and increase revenue collection
One of the main reasons for IMEI registration is tracking the IMEI number of illegally imported phones. The MDMS is integrated with servers and systems of telecom providers in Nepal. When a SIM card or RUIM card is inserted in an imported phone without IMEI registration, a denial of service message is shown with a registration link. This is the same for a phone bought from the grey market.
After getting the message, the owner of the phone has to register the IMEI number in the system of NTA. However, users of all the imported phones that have been using network service before July 15th don’t need to panic. Still, NTA recommends registering them in their system. The rules are strict for all the phones joining the Nepali cellular networks after 2021 July 15th.
There are two markets in Nepal. One is a white channel where official companies import phones by paying custom duties, register IMEI numbers in bulk and pay taxes or VAT. Another is a grey channel where the import is done without an official channel and customs are evaded. The system tackles this by blocking unregistered phones from having cellular reception. People will have to register imported phones by paying 13% VAT and 2.5% excise duty. This will discourage bulk grey channel imports in the mobile phone market. Therefore GoN and companies can collect more revenue which they were losing and companies can also sell more from the official channel.
People who bring one phone from abroad while coming don’t need to pay the duties as it is for personal use. However, for more than one phone, the VAT and duties need to be paid. Therefore original bill or invoice must be presented by the owners.
2) Tracing and Stopping Illegal Activities
According to NTA, the system is there to help people make electronic devices traceable. GoN wants to stop theft and criminal activities from mobile phones. NTA is going to categorize cellular devices into three categories. Firstly there is the white list, secondly is the grey list and thirdly there is the black list. These define the legality of the devices.
The white list includes all registered phones and cellular-capable devices. This list includes phones, tablets, and gadgets whose IMEI or unique identifier is registered in the NTA’s system. This means the device has cleared all the legal requirements. The white list has devices bought from authorized channels in Nepal as well as registered imported devices.
All the network functions such as calls, SMS, MMS, Data, USSD, etc functions are available on devices of the white list. All the phones and devices that were running with a cellular connection of any Nepali telecom network before July 15th are on the list. If the IMEI of an older device is missing from the system, users can simply fill online form and apply for registration.
This is a list that is almost similar to a blacklist. All the phones and devices purchased from the grey market and unofficial channels are on this list. If you import or buy a device from abroad and don’t register it then it goes in the grey list. Devices in the grey list can’t perform any cellular activities such as calling, messaging and using data. People need to register their devices in the system with due process to shift to the white list and enjoy services.
This is the worst list of all. The blacklist has records of devices that are totally illegal. This list has unique identifier records of cellular mobile devices that are illegal. It means the records of stolen phones and devices that have been related to illegal activities. This is to help reduce device misuse and theft. NTA’s central IMEI registry is connected to the system of telecom providers.
Therefore when a blacklisted device is connected to a network using a SIM card then the system is notified. It will help close service to the device and also help authorities track the suspect. This can surely reduce the theft and reselling of stolen smartphones in Nepal. However, thieves mostly take the stolen devices and sell them in India.
Issues with IMEI Registration using EIR Portal
When the EIR system was introduced in 2021, the portal for individual registration opened through the link (https://eir.nta.gov.np/indivisual/register). The screenshot of the registration form of the portal is attached to this article above. Here we can see that people could do online IMEI registration of their smartphones with just personal details, IMEI/ESN/ MEID number, and provide any type of ID such as citizenship, voter ID, PAN card, passport, or Visa.
This is where the openness and problem were existing. At first, NTA allowed everyone to register their smartphone through this system. So even if people had bought a phone in the Nepali grey market or they have imported it themselves they could register it and it would be greylisted. Any phone in anyone’s possession that has been obtained as a gift or purchased from any country in the world could have been registered without proof of purchase, proof of import, or proof of paying tax.
Due to this, people could openly and freely register the devices which they bought before September 15th, 2022. However to fill the patches and loophole MDMS system was introduced. So, from now on the EIR portal is closed and registration happens from the new portal.
People’s perspective on IMEI Registration in Nepal: Pros and Cons
There are many advantages of the new IMEI registration system. These include controlling illegal activities, tracking stolen phones, stopping the grey market of smartphones, and increasing revenue collection by GoN. But on the other hand, people abroad are also saying that they send a lot of remittances to Nepal and it is bad that extra money is being taken on their own phones and gift to their families. The counterargument of NTA is that they are in no way restricting people to bring phones. People can bring phones under Open General License (OGL) limitation and bring more by paying taxes and then registering.
However, one problem that is serious for the technology field is a ‘monopoly’. Whatever the companies say, Nepalese people feel that the phones in Nepal are quite expensive and sometimes cut down in specs. That is quite true in many cases. Many smartphone companies only launch select models or even watered-down models with different internals in Nepal.
Also Read: List of all Mobile Prices in Nepal
For example, there are some smartphone models in Nepal with different processors or low-powered hardware. However, the price in Nepal is the same or even higher compared to the international market. Sometimes the launch is very late and sometimes the prices are exceptionally higher. There are also cases where people can’t get the model they like such as Asus ROG or Google Pixel models. In some special cases, the companies who officially bring phones choose to bring only profitable models and they don’t bring value-providing models like they do in India.
In such cases, people used to buy from India or ask their family and friends to bring from abroad. This kind of thing is going to take a hit because people will need to pay extra if they bring more phones. The term or process of “Type Approval” will also add a new hurdle to Nepali smartphone enthusiasts. All of this can create a market monopoly for smartphone manufacturers. Then the companies can bring any phone they like. This can cause Nepalese to pay the MRP for phones that aren’t highly desirable.
Article Originally Published on: 6th May 2016
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