U.S. Carriers Turn on Stolen Cellphone Database, Canada Watches From the Sidelines


Yesterday U.S. carriers turned on their cellphone databases for stolen cellphones, something Canada will yet to have anytime soon: 

“The goal is to not only protect the consumer by cancelling the service, but by ultimately protecting the consumer by drying up the after market for stolen phones,” said Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs at CTIA, a wireless industry trade association that has coordinated efforts to introduce the database.

As of Wednesday, carriers AT&T and T-Mobile will offer a joint database, said Guttman-McCabe. The two carriers use the same basic network technology so handsets from one can be easily used on the other. Verizon and Sprint, which use a different network technology, will offer their own databases, he said.

The database consists of IMEI numbers, unique to all cellphones and smartphones that will be blocked from activation. By next November, all four major U.S. carriers will combine their databases, with other smaller wireless carriers joining as well. Future plans include coordinating with the GSM Association to target stolen phones shipped overseas.

In Canada, carriers have teamed up with manufacturers under the group known as the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). Opposition to creating a central database in Canada was cited to the cost, which the latter says would cost millions to maintain, but critics are quick to note the industry pulls in annual revenues of $18 billion.

Also, CWTA members such as Rogers, TELUS and Bell note such a database would compromise detailed statistics of lost and stolen devices, which they claim are proprietary, competitive and confidential in nature. The CRTC in response to this noted they would go as far as imposing regulatory options to force carriers to create a database.

In Vancouver, a recent report noted ‘Apple-picking’ had increased in the city by almost 50% in the past two years. Apple devices and other smartphones are valuable to thieves who are quick to sell them online.

Should Canada get their own cellphone database like the U.S.? 

[via Network World]


  • pure4

    Once again @#$K you canadian wirelless carriers! Your time will soon come you c#$% sucker mother f@#$ers! You’ll see.. The canadian government will let in freign competition and you’ll finally get what’s coming to you…

  • K3

    Unless there is a shared database with the one in US what prevents a stolen US handset unlocked via an ebay method to be sold in Canada?

  • Rob

    Carriers don’t want to get a database going because a stolen locked phone = new customer for thier network when the phone is sold to an unsuspecting buyer.

  • I don’t understand why should carriers be responsible for creating such database. If someone should do that, it is government or police. Maybe I missed something, or did I?

  • Andy

    So you are OK with government spending millions for a database when carriers get Billions ?!

  • Jon

    If the police do it, then what would signal to the carrier that the phone was stolen? Don’t you think the police have better priorities?

  • And what will carriers do with that information? There is no anything they can do exept to not alow stolen phone to conect to the network? On the other side, police can make sure that you get your phone back. Now, about priorities. As soon as theafs hear that every phone that is stolen is returned to the original owner and that theafs are in jail or whatever, crime rates will drop when if comes to phone stealing. Only stupid person would steal the phone.

  • Yes. Would you like being forced to do something that you are not suppose to? How about I make you by me a burger everyday just because you have more money then me even though I am the one that should be paying?

  • srdunn

    Wow… are you missing the point. If the phone cant get service, ie the Carrier wont allow it on the network, this drys up the market for stolen phones, you might as well steal a brick if its no longer useful. Just because the police have an EMIE number does not mean they know where the phone is. You can buy a pay as you go sim and stick it in a phone anywhere. Having that number isn’t going to help the police get your phone back. No location data is transmitted. The point is to make a stolen phone worthless, I don’t think we want our police anymore involved with the phone industry than they are right now with a warrant being a great barrier. This really is something that the carriers should be mandated to do. You want to operate a cell phone company in Canada, here is one of the steps.

    The wireless industry always argues that it will be “to costly” they made the same argument when Production Orders first became available to the police as a means of investigation. They went to court and argued against a judge ordering them to produce phone records stating that it would take too much time and money… needless to say the judge was not impressed and guess what, production orders work well today!

  • srdunn

    Ever thought that your idea that the telecom compnaies are being forced to do “something that you are not supposed to do” might just be flawed? Like it or lump it Telco, phone service providers, a regulated. You don’t just get to decide to be a telco, start throwing up towers and broadcasting in a spectrum. You are HEAVILY regulated, these regulations ensure (or are supposed to ensure) that there is a net benefit to society for you being allowed to operate in this area. For example that safety standards are met, security standards are maintained etc etc. There is not one good reason why Carriers should not be forced to maintain this database on their own.

    Furthermore, I could just imagine the shit storm that would come if the Government did maintain the database, all the Carriers would bitch and moan about how slow it was, how they could do it better, how much money it costs them to comply with the ineffective way the government maintains the database with its “security” and its “rules”. Bah, the simplest way around all this nonsense is to mandate that ALL Carriers must be part of a universal registration of EMIE numbers to stop stolen cell phones from being granted service on any network in Canada. Its part of the cost of doing business. And while they are mandating that they should also mandate that the Carriers are not allowed to increase their pricing structure to augment the costs of doing that. Maybe then the Carriers would focus on being the best service providers to increase business rather than being a heavy handed oligopoly!

  • You have a point, but either way you are paying for it. Either through 0.5% tax or through 1$ higher wireless invoice. The only question is who is going to have to rise the “price”, the government or careers.