DIRBS: Creating Opportunities for Local Mobile Phone Manufacturing in Pakistan

Note: The article is written under the guidance of Ms. Tayyaba Iftikhar (Assistant Director PR, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority).


With network coverage growing stronger and myriad options of mobile phones available in the market, the uptake of mobile technology is on an upward swing. Given the ubiquity of mobile phones and their use among a broad cross-section of the global population, many are harnessing the potential of mobile technology to bridge knowledge gaps and alleviate poverty. It would not be wrong to say that the mobile phone is conquering the world. As the proliferation of mobile phones continues, the global challenge to curb counterfeit, fake, and sub-standard mobile devices has largely remained a question mark. A 2017 study conducted by the EU’s Intellectual Property Office (EU IPO) stated that 180 million fake mobile phones are sold globally per annum. The multi-billion-dollar stolen and counterfeit phone business has had widespread repercussions for consumers, governments, and the tech sector alike.

DIRBS: Creating Opportunities for Local Mobile Phone Manufacturing; Aiding Economic Growth of Pakistan

Over the past decade, extraordinary and rapid progress has been made in bringing affordable broadband services to all in Pakistan. Widening network coverage and the increasing adoption of smartphones are helping bring mobile internet services to people across the country. Today, there are over 114 million broadband subscribers in Pakistan with mobile being the dominant form of digital connectivity in Pakistan. Recognizing the global challenge of sub-standard and illegal phones, and the multitude of issues such as security concerns, network quality issues, and tax evasion, PTA undertook a comprehensive initiative and implemented the first of its kind, world’s first open-source, full-fledged – Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) in 2019. The system is designed to be able to identify non-standard (fake, replica) mobile phone IMEIs, mobile phones connected to networks that have a cloned or duplicated IMEI as well as ensure mobile phones being imported are via formal channels, therefore helping in curbing the informal import channels in Pakistan.

Since the implementation of the System, the use of fake and sub-standard mobile devices being imported via informal channels has been significantly curbed. Consequently, there has been an increase in government revenues as well as allowing a level playing field for the industry to do fair business. For the successful implementation of the System, detailed processes were developed with stakeholders including mobile network operators. The System is integrated with all the relevant government departments. Whenever any IMEI is latched on any mobile network, DIRBS identifies it as either compliant, non-compliant, valid but not registered (tax not paid), or stolen and notifies the subscribers if required.

With the implementation of DIRBS, revenue collection via legal import of devices has exceeded past PKR 140 Billion (inclusive of the PKR 25 billion collected by the Federal Board of Revenue in individual mobile registration).

In the light of this tremendous impact of DIRBS, Mobile Manufacturing Policy was introduced to encourage and attract manufacturers to Pakistan and establish their plants. PTA issued Mobile Device Manufacturing (MDM) Regulations in 2021. Under the Regulations, 30 companies’ authorization for mobile manufacturing has been granted by PTA. Some of the world-renowned brands e.g. Samsung, Xiaomi, Nokia, Oppo, Vivo, Techno, Infinix, ZTE etc. are being manufactured in Pakistan with over 24 million phones manufactured in 2021 only. For the 1st time in the history of Pakistan, mobile phone imports dropped significantly with the major supply of mobile phones to local markets & consumers being through local mobile phone manufacturing.

Read Out: How To Register Your Mobile from USSD Code?

Mobile device manufacturing is a key milestone in the Telecom sector development of Pakistan with far reaching impact in terms of affordability for consumers, industry development, job creation in this skilled area and for export of ‘Manufactured in Pakistan’ mobile devices to other markets that can contribute significantly towards economic growth for Pakistan.

Read Out: How To Bring Phone in Pakistan Without Paying Tax

With huge growth in legally imported mobile phones predicted to continue, the opportunities within the medium are endless. Pakistan takes pride in implementing DIRBS system successfully and playing an instrumental role to solve a global problem by successfully identifying duplicated/cloned/ non-standard mobile phones IMEIs and stopping them from connecting to networks. This has also helped in improving the quality of service of local mobile networks. Suffice to say, DIRBS has also curbed informal import and enabled legal import which has helped promote mobile phone industry with availability of a fair level playing field for all entities to do business in Pakistan.

Check out? From Global to Local- What Mobile Manufacturing Means for Pakistan

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