By Lois Jones

A system that will render impossible the use of stolen mobile phones is already functioning in the Balearics.
Developed by the Government, mobile phone operators and manufacturers, it will also be available from today in another four self-governing regions, namely Asturias, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Galicia. The system is to reduce mobile phone theft to a pointless exercise by “blocking” the terminal handset thereby rendering the unit valueless.
It began a phased introduction on 15th May last with pilot trials set up in the areas of Madrid and Barcelona, and will be operative throughout the country from 30th June. On 22nd May, the scheme began functioning in Andalucia, Ceuta, Melilla and Castilla-La-Mancha; on 29th of the same month in Aragón, Cantabria, Murcia, Navarra, the Basque Country and La Rioja, and on 5th June in the Balearics, the Canary Islands and Valencia. According to the Government, administrators and mobile telephone operators have worked particularly hard to set this system up in Spain, the third country to have it after the United Kingdom and France. Operators have succeeded in adapting their equipment, networks, and programmes to meet the project targets in good time.
This technical solution will enable the blocking of stolen mobile handsets and includes the compiling of a list of robbed mobile phones, so that companies can block the affected terminals. Similarly, the manufacturers have added a new technical specification in order to bolster the inviolability of the IMEI number, a worldwide terminal identification number similar to the vehicle chassis number system, which each user will be able to see on the screen of their mobile phone by pressing: asterix, gate, 06, gate. The client will also be able to obtain that number by looking in the battery compartment or in the original mobile box package, in the instruction papers or on the purchase invoice. The new system administrators recommend that mobile phone users obtain and keep this number in a safe place. In the case of robbery or theft, the client must inform the telephone company as soon as possible so that the line can be suspended and the blocking process be initiated. All users can apply for this service, either stipulated by contract or purchased by pre-paid methods.
If the user hasn't previously registered the IMEI number with the operating company, they will have to officially document the theft with a police station or the nearest Guardia Civíl offices, taking with them the details of their phone line and the IMEI number. Once the mobile phone operating company has the IMEI number, the blocking process will come into effect within 72 hours, after which the operators will carry out a series of investigations including the interchange of information on the phone details with other mobile phone organisations so that the stolen handset remains inoperative within all mobile phone networks.

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