Muscat: In line with its efforts to maintain the quality of the telecom sector in Oman, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is planning to curb the sale of counterfeit telephones throughout the country.
The regulator is now seeking to assist consumers in ensuring the authenticity of phones they purchase. The new initiative could complement TRA's device approval procedure, its regular inspections and other measures aimed at raising awareness about fake telephone equipment.
According to TRA, the risks associated with using fake devices include exposure to harmful radiation, harm to the public or people working in public telecom networks, electromagnetic disorders, inefficient usage of frequency spectrums, and interference with public telecom networks.
Given the importance of the issue, Mahmood Omar Al Zadjali, manager at the Type Approval department of TRA, says the authority is determined to ensure the public's safety and the quality of its services, by enforcing these new measures.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, Al Zadjali noted that the new regulations being discussed include a service that would allow users to access the database of the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) through telecom operators in Oman. IMEI is a number, usually unique, used to identify genuine phones.
"What we are trying to now initiate as a project between ourselves and the operators is to check the equipment's IMEI. It is more of a reference given to all approved equipment, not only in Oman but worldwide," said the TRA official, who is in charge of steering the quality of the service department.
Al Zadjali explained that through the new plan, buyers can send an IMEI to a particular number through, for example, SMS, and a response will be returned, letting the buyer know whether a phone is valid and for which brand it was manufactured.
He added that in order to implement the project, operators have to coordinate with the GSM Association, which is an association of mobile operators and related companies, so that they can access the IMEI database.
The plan has not been finalised yet, but is expected to be approved in 2015, he said.
Currently, there are some websites on the Internet where the public can check the authenticity of a phone, but the new initiative will improve the procedure and make it accessible for everyone, the TRA official added.
Under the law, all phones and equipment imported for sale in Oman must be first approved by TRA, and importers must obtain an approval certificate from the authority.
Al Zadjali said that Oman does not have a laboratory to check phones for compliance with safety and other requirements, but accept the reports of internationally accredited labs established for this purpose.
TRA's measures are in coordination with customs, Royal Oman Police (ROP) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, he said.
Devices must have TRA labels
"When dealers come to register with us, we set this condition for them that all equipment sold in their shops must be approved equipment. Most of them comply, but some do not."
Also, all approved devices must have labels carrying TRA's approval, the certificate number, and the dealer's number, he said, adding that the labels are on the device, itself, in the accompanying manual or on the box.
According to Al Zadjali, TRA has published a list of all approved devices, and also those dealers which have been authorised to sell them on its website. The list is accessible to the public. He went on to say that the authority does not intend to establish a lab for testing all devices, because it is not economically viable, but plans to acquire testing equipment to measure radiation emitted by mobile phones.
"What we try to accomplish, maybe in cooperation with the operators, is to have this measurement tool or a small lab to test radiation of mobile phones, which is called the SAR, or specific absorption rate.
"We already started the project in 2014 and, Inshallah, we will acquire the devices in 2015," Al Zadjali noted.
The official also commented that the problem is felt more these days because a wide variety of phones are entering the market, and that is why TRA is conducting regular inspections.
He added that an inspection team was established in 2010 and is now checking shops in all the governorates.
According to Al Zadjali, there has been an increase in the number of seized phones and violation notices issued, but it cannot be ascertained whether there has been a larger number of counterfeit phones being sold in Oman. Rather, these larger number of seizures might be attributed to the increase in the number of inspections.
Some dealers receive their permits to sell electronic devices, but later begin selling phones, as well, he said, adding that there is confusion between electronic and telecom
A telecom device can send and receive data and, for example, TV is not considered to be a telecom device, he noted.
Al Zadjali added that there have been cases in which sellers did not know that equipment they were selling was counterfeit and, in some cases, the buyers, themselves, had been aware that they were buying fake phones, but still did so because of their cheaper prices.
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