Are U.S. Cell Phone Carriers Complicit?
The CTIA, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry, is “dedicated to expanding the wireless frontier.” But are there limits to their ambition to grow their business?
Recently, questions were raised in the media concerning the alleged complicity of mobile phone carriers' dubious relationship with mobile phone thieves. A simple definition of complicity is being associated with or participating in a questionable act or crime. By all counts U.S. mobile phone carriers are “associated with a questionable act” by refusing to protect their customers as mobile phone carriers do in Australia.
Mobile phone carriers in Australia maintain a universal database of mobile phone serial numbers. When a phone serial number is reported stolen, the phone is rendered inoperative. That's a far cry from what U.S. carriers do for their customers. U.S. carriers only render the SIM cards invalid. But mobile phone thieves can just replace the bad SIM cards with new ones.
More importantly, customers must buy a replacement phone when their phone is stolen, cha-ching for the mobile carriers. In addition, stolen mobile phones are potential new customers for the mobile carriers, cha-ching for the mobile carriers.
Since Australia adopted this system in 2004, the number of stolen mobile phones has dropped a remarkable 25% as the number of phones jumped nearly 75%.
The CTIA responded that thieves can overwrite the serial number, that universal databases are hard to maintain accurately, and that it takes more time. However, given these concerns the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association has not had a problem and that the only burden placed on the mobile phone user is the need to write down a serial number.