Making the market for stolen cell phones go away

Last Wednesday some U.S. wireless carriers implemented the first part of a national strategy to deter cell phone theft: a joint “blacklist” database of identifying information about cell phones reported lost or stolen.

As of now, cell phone dealers are supposed to check this database before honoring requests to reactivate allegedly “locked-out” phones, in order to prevent people from using stolen phones.

It used to be that when you reported a phone lost or stolen, your carrier would suspend service to that device. But the person who stole your phone (or someone who bought it from the thief) could still walk into a cell phone dealer and get your phone reactivated under a new account.

Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA (a global association of wireless carriers), explained: “The point of the blacklist database is to dry up the aftermarket for stolen phones. If you can’t reactivate a stolen phone, it’s just a worthless hunk of plastic and metal…”

…Under this plan, U.S. carriers that use GSM network technology (that’s AT&T and T-Mobile) committed to launching their databases by October 31…The other U.S. carriers, which operate CDMA-technology networks, still have over a year to get their lost/stolen phone databases up and running… According to CTIA, Sprint/Nextel has already implemented its database.

At first these CDMA databases will be carrier-specific; later the blacklists from all carriers will be integrated into a single database

One factor slowing the implementation of a centralized cross-carrier database of lost or stolen phones is the uneven pace of LTE network rollouts across the U.S. Some of the identifying information listed in the database is derived from wireless networks, and variations in network technology make it difficult to create consistent and reliable listings for individual devices.

So, while the carriers work to dry up the stolen phone aftermarket, take a moment to set up remote wipe service for your phone, remember to keep it locked, and beware of low-cost used phones available for sale on eBay, Craigslist, and elsewhere. If you purchase a device that turns out to be stolen and therefore can’t activate it, you won’t get your money back.

Turning an otherwise profitable product – therefore worth stealing – into a chunk of valueless plastic and electronics is the best way to end almost all theft of this type. Remove the market that rewards theft and you take away all the motivation for a thief.

Kind of like legalizing marijuana. The easiest way in the world to get gangsters out of the loop is to rrmove the profits they derive from scarce goods.

More PR blather about the Mobile net ‘heading for data jam’


The number of people accessing the net on mobile phones could soon outstrip the capacity of networks, experts warn.

When you see a tech article that includes “experts warn” in the first sentence, understand that the whole concept was probably offered to the publisher by a PR firm employed by those who are profiting from the technology in the warning. Or their own in-house spin merchants.

Mobile data traffic looks set to rise 25 fold by 2012, said mobile analyst firm Informa. The boom could present operators with problems as revenues generated by those using such mobile data services will only double over the same time period.

Revenues from data are increasing much slower than traffic,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, mobile network analyst from Informa. “Where operators are experiencing exploding data traffic, revenues are not following them.”

Ah-hah. We get the hook early on. We are enjoined to help the poor, struggling wireless carriers to increase their profits – or we shall all die in a hell absent adequate mobile phone access.

Graham Carey, a spokesman for network optimisation firm ByteMobile, said the history of mobile networks also made it harder to handle the always-on nature of many smartphones and laptops.

Then, we get a listing of the micro-disasters that only can be solved by heading off Net Neutrality at the pass – letting the operators raise prices and minimize usage.

“What’s going to happen if carriers do not respond appropriately? They are going to crush the user experience.”

As if wireless companies ever cared about or considered “the user experience”.