News by Dan Seifert on Tuesday April 10, 2012.
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The U.S. government has teamed up with Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and AT&T to create a new database of stolen mobile phones that will prevent the devices from being used on the carriers' networks.
Phones that are earmarked as stolen in the database will be unable to access voice or data services on the carriers' networks, effectively lowering their resale value on the black market. The carriers will maintain and build the database. They will deploy their own databases within six months, and those individual databases will be integrated together over the following 12 months.
The carriers have also agreed to encourage users to set up passwords on their devices to protect them in the event that the phones are stolen.
Sprint and Verizon already block stolen phones from working on their networks, but this is new for AT&T and T-Mobile, which have not done so in the past. Because AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM-based networks, phones can be easily swapped between users with a simple SIM card change, making it more difficult to block stolen ones from accessing the network. The carriers are committed to finding a solution, however. "We are working toward an industry-wide solution to address the complexity of blocking stolen devices from being activated on ours or another network with a new SIM card," said T-Mobile.
The U.S. lags behind other countries with creating a centralized stolen phone database. The UK has had one since 2002, while Australia set its up in 2004. Both France and Germany have centralized databases, as well. [via The Wall Street Journal]
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.