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Angst over influx of fake cell phones


There is an influx of counterfeit cell phones in Nigeria, causing concern to consumers, the industry and government.

Reliable estimates are hard to come by, but, it is believed that some 1 million fake phones valued at N2.7 billion were imported into the country last year alone, adding to the over 148 million sold annually worldwide worth $6 billion.

Experts have warned of health risks of using fake or substandard phones that are been released into the market without proper tests and checks.

Patrick Odita, a telecommunication consultant, said, studies showed that fake cell phone exposes users to emitted radio frequency radiations, which poses health problem to the individual.


Apart from health issues, Odita said, that fake phones are responsible for some of the cases of poor reception; traffic jams on the networks; drooped calls; as well as revenue loss on the part of telecom operators.

Counterfeit phones are copies of popular brands and models made from sub-standard materials and are not licensed by the NCC.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered there are technologies which allow fake phones to be switched off and barred from receiving; making calls; or carrying other network activities.

The technologies bar only the phones as SIM cards can still be transferred to genuine mobiles and no data will be lost.

A mobile phone is also deemed fake if its IMEI number – the unique identifier for each phone – is not recognised by an international database.

Dr. Alex Ukwuani, an ICT security expert said that fake phones have both safety and security perspectives

“A criminal can use fake mobile phone to perpetuate crime and it will be difficult for the security agencies to trace the culprit” he added.

Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), have also called for urgent measures to curb the increasing rate of dumping fake mobile phones in the country.

According to ATCON, there are over 150 unregistered/unapproved mobile phone models circulating in Nigeria.

But in a renewed bid to protect consumers from substandard phones and other devices; the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), recently, warned companies still flouting its regulation on type-approval for all telecom devices and equipment to stop forthwith or face the consequences.

The NCC has previously shut down mobile phone vendors over distribution and sale of non-type approved devices in the country.

Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC, said that using non-type approved handsets and other devices has implications for quality of telecom services.

Danbatta said that the commission in collaboration with the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) and other key government agencies had set up two joint committees – project steering committee (PSC) and project delivery team (PDT) – to combat the recurrent cycle of fraudster deploying their trade via fake and substandard mobile devices.

He declared that these committees are to ensure the implementation of the Mobile Device Management System (MDMS), a public-private partnership project to combat the proliferation of counterfeit, substandard and cloned mobile communication devices in telecommunication industry through proper monitoring of our borders and the market.

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