Telstra to cut off stolen mobiles

Telstra will announce measures to combat mobile phone handset thefts today: from August 15, any stolen phone using the Telstra network won't work and will be rendered useless. The blocking will apply to any GSM handset that has been obtained illegally and will be done automatically as soon as the phone is detected on the Telstra network. The International Mobile Equipment Identity number (IMEI) will be detected and matched to numbers in a database, then a block will be applied.

This is an industry-wide move and also involves Optus and Vodafone, although these two carriers won't have their technology working until October.

Telstra is the first telco in Australia and one of the first in the world to start IMEI blocking.

The Australian Consumers' Association's Charles Britton says that the industry's measures against mobile phone crime are long overdue. He is also urging handset manufacturers to make security features more user-friendly and to consider extra safeguards such as handset locks that are operated through voice recognition.