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MDMS Goes Live in Nepal, NTA to Block Grey Phones

NTA has started MDMS mobile monitoring system from Bhadra 30. Releasing a notice on the same date, telecom regulator NTA officially announced the beginning of the much-discussed regulatory system. MDMS short for Mobile Device Management System will help curb the grey phones market in Nepal while also helping track stone or lost phones and bring every unit under the direct monitoring of the regulator. At the same time, the government will also increase its revenues that have slipped to date due to the lack of such an advanced regulatory system.

The notice mentioned that the system is implemented to contain the imports, sales, and distribution of unauthorized mobile phones and also to help track lost or stolen handsets inside Nepal. It also hinted that those phones coming via illegitimate channels will stop accessing telecom services.  

It also means that all the phones in operation including those brought personally from abroad have all been integrated into the MDMS software. Likewise, the regulator has requested consumers to verify if a phone has been registered in the MDMS (mdms.nta.gov.np) before purchasing them after Bhadra 30.

NTA MDMS
A pop for a phone’s IMEI that has not been registered at MDMS

Importers and distributors also need to mandatorily get approval from NTA to import phones and only sell phones that have been registered in the system.     

MDMS (Mobile Device Management system) refers to a higher-level monitoring system that works for holistic management and operation of mobile devices such as PCs, tablet PCs, cell phones, POS systems, and other devices. It’s a software application that helps device fleet operators to manage and implement rules or policies on various types of devices.

MDMS Soft Launch, an occasion for Deepawali

But it’s still not a full-fledged version of MDMS. The authority has not yet confirmed if the EIR system of MDMS has been implemented on the mobile network operators’ side. So, it’s a soft launch of the system for now.

After the launch of the system, Mobile Phone Importers Association Chairman Dipak Malhotra expressed his delight. “We have long waited for the system. Finally, it has started today. We are also marking the occasion by observing the ‘Deepawali’ celebration,” he said.

Find out your mobile phone’s IMEI Number

NTA has urged future phone buyers to first verify if the phone has been registered in the system. The regulator has started a portal to facilitate users to confirm both verify IMEI registration and find out one of their devices.

NTA MDMS website

If you want to find out the IMEI of your phone or want to verify a phone’s registration status, visit mdms.nta.gov.np and fill up either field you wish to. If the IMEI you entered is registered, it means your phone is legitimately operating otherwise, your phone may be stripped of telecom services.

But the regulator won’t immediately block or blacklist your phone. You will still receive a short period to register your phone and avoid possible repercussions. Learn more below.

And to make it easy for you, if your phone has been registered already, you will receive a message on your phone with confirmation.

MDMS IMEI registration confirmation

NTA to block unregistered phones after 15 days

With the launch of MDMS, many are skeptical about what they need to do to avoid any action by the regulator. But NTA has white-listed all the phones operating in Nepal till Bhadra 30. Users don’t need to register their phones.

But from Bhadra 31, every phone that has escaped customs charges, or was brought via informal channels will be given 15 days period to register the phones. If such phones aren’t registered within the time, they will be blocked meaning such handsets won’t have telecom services on any network in Nepal.

Grey Phones

Grey Phones in Nepal

Grey phones in Nepal are at large. There is an estimated 25-30% of grey phones in the Nepali mobile phone market. The worst is that people are using them without concern. This has not only put mobile phone owners’ safety at risk, but it has also cost the government in revenues. But finally, the Nepal government is gearing up to sort out the issue. After all the talks, discussions, and preparations, NTA has finally got MDMS all ready to execute.

With this, the authorities will be able to monitor all the mobile phones operating in Nepal. NTA would also roll out its policies via updates on phones, and monitor users for anti-social behaviors. Besides, the government will be able to collect revenues when phones are brought via legitimate channels.

Checkout: Mobile Phone imports increased in Nepal despite COVID-19 Pandemic

How Do Grey Phones Enter Nepal?

In Nepal’s context, retailers smuggle phones into the country from India taking advantage of open borders. As they dodge the customs charges, they can sell those phones in the Nepali market for cheaper prices.

Secondly, people working abroad also bring such phones in large volumes every month. Such phones are sold very commonly in major cities in Nepal, especially in border areas and main cities under the nose of authorities. Places, where such phones are bought and sold, are called grey markets.

Nepal imports roughly one million sets of phones monthly. Out of those, 2,50,000 phones remain unauthorized. This has cost the government around NRs. 7 billion every month, sources say.

MDMS in Nepal: To Curb Grey Phones

As the best solution, the government has implemented the anti-grey phones strategy in Nepal. Phase-wise implementation of MDMS will help keep track of every phone in operation inside the country. The project has seen many delays over the years and got more delays due to COVID-19. This had obstructed the procurement of MDMS systems from Malaysia but finally, NTA has been able to beat the odds and kickstart the system.

The MDMS system will also help identify smuggled phones from legitimately imported ones. It will also help in the retrieval of lost phones if required.

Earlier Mr. Purushottam Khanal, Chairman of Nepal Telecommunication Authority had said, “The government will implement a whitelisting program through MDMS within three months. After fully operational MDMS, every phone will be functional (mobile network wise) only after being registered to NTA.”

Grey phones are sold very commonly and are in use in all parts of the country. “The issue needs to be tackled with a broader approach”, said Mr. Binod Lamichhane, an Inland Revenue Officer at Naya Sadak.

Additionally, the open borders have also remained unfortunately favorable for people to evade customs checkpoints. People cross borders to purchase phones and daily essentials at a lower cost.

What Will MDMS Do to Your Grey Phone?

From now on, MDMS will come with several ramifications on grey phones operating on any network in Nepal.

  • First of all, your grey phone will not be operational for telecom services after Bhadra 30. As a concession, all operational phones with Nepali SIM cards won’t be immediately blocked.
  • In case such a phone is lost, one cannot lodge a police report for it. If one does, the chances are they will find themselves in jeopardy for using an unauthorized.
  • Your new grey phone will be blocked out of any carrier network in Nepal. It will not be compatible with any telecom network from Nepal in the future.
  • Since the unauthorized phone does not receive any signal, its utility will be a bare minimum. You cannot avail yourself of any telecom service and the device becomes almost useless like a brick.

Then again, a grey phone evades government registration, taxes, and regulation. The black marketeer or the smugglers sneak into the country via illegal routers and circulate such phones at large. The public buys them because they come cheap without realizing the broader risk entails. Eventually, it also raises a moral question, of whether one should use an illegal phone at all.

About MDMS in Nepal

MDMS stands for Mobile Device Management System. The advanced system helps to keep track of every mobile phone operational in Nepal, along with its locations. When this system comes into effect, authorities will be able to track down unauthorized devices and render them unusable on any mobile network within the country.

MDMS system

MDMS has been in the news for a long time. It has been in the plan of the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) for years. Though the Centralized database of all phones was conceived long back, the MDMS was coined with an NTA project in 2018. But the outcome never came to fruition. The mobile importers in Nepal have also voiced their concern about its effects on business. As a result, all the stakeholders were standing on the same page.

How to register your phone at MDMS

To register your phone in MDMS, follow the steps below:

Step 1: First, visit the link here.

Step 2: Now, you see fields requiring you to submit some details. Enter your phone’s IMEI number, the brand of the phone, and the model, and also confirm whether the phone is currently in use or not. After entering the details, click on Validate IME and Continue.

phone MDMS registration

Step 3: In the next step, you need to enter when and where you entered Nepal and also need to provide your personal details. This also includes your passport number and your nationality. Then, you need to fill in a different set of details depending on your nationality.

Nepali: If you select Nepali as your nationality, you need to enter your address and whether the phone you have is registered for your personal use or for others. If you brought your phone as a gift for others, the option is for you. Select between ‘Self’ and ‘Others.’

Foreign: In case you are not Nepali by nationality, you need to provide your address in your home country and submit your visa validity date. If you wish to extend your Visa, then you must renew your phone’s IMEI validity with the same process.

Step 4: Now, you need to recheck your details. Make sure the details are accurate before you submit them. You will need to upload and submit a scanned copy of your passport, and an entry stamps from the immigration department. It also requires you to submit proof of purchase of your smartphone to prove that it’s not a grey phone. (The scanned file should be in .jpg or .jpeg format and should not exceed 512 KB in size).

NTA’s system runs a check on the details and decides whether to approve your registration or not.     

Benefits of Implementing MDMS In Nepal

For now, the government registers IMEI of mobile phones through the NTA portal. But this practice also needs to improve as it has not been proportionate to address mobile phone-related issues.

With the introduction of MDMS however, it now keeps a record of every phone. This will help to keep accurate data on mobile phones that enter the country via legal routes. In the case of stolen devices, the owner can request to block the device directly. At the moment, owners have to go through the hassles of first writing an application to the police, and inquiring at the NTA to locate their phones.

Read the detailed process for how to report and track lost/stolen phones online?

MDMS On Telcos’ Servers

But now the MDMS needs to be integrated into NTC, Ncell, and Smart Cell servers. So that every phone will access the mobile network after the verification of the mobile in the central MDMS database at NTA. This will also help phone owners when their phones are stolen. For example, if someone lodges a complaint about their phone’s theft to the telco, the company will have the capacity to restrict any service when another SIM is detected on the stolen phone.

The Mobile device management system aka the Centralized EIR system will be beneficial for all; the government, traders, and mobile phone users. It will curb the circulation of unauthorized phones in Nepal and hence contain the grey phone market. The government will raise more revenues at customs and the owners will be able to assure themselves of their devices’ legality.

Finally, after months of talking and working on MDMS, NTA has started the MDMS to regulate mobile phones in Nepal. Have you registered your phone at NTA though? If you haven’t, you’d better hurry and register your phone and avoid possible service disruption on your phone. If you have more to ask or learn about MDMS in Nepal, do let us know in the comments below.

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