AT&T and T-Mobile are joining forces in order to try and curb the rising rate of stolen smartphones by way of a shared database project backed by both the CTIA and FCC. The system will allow either carrier to flag an IMEI number as stolen which will render the device useless on either network.
While CDMA carriers have the ability to flag an EIN number of a device as stolen, GSM carriers have long had no option since the service is technically tied to the SIM card instead of the actual device. Switching to an IMEI method will, for the first time, allow GSM carriers to take a strong stand against theft.
Even though CDMA carriers can flag EIN's, it isn't a fool proof system either so the FCC and CTIA plan on rolling out an initiative for CDMA carriers as well.
The database initiative was announced in April as a joint plan between the carriers, the wireless industry group CTIA, and the Federal Communications Commission. At that time, the organizations said that the GSM service would be up and running on October 31, followed by a CDMA option for Verizon and Sprint soon after.
Smartphones nowadays such as the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S often possess the capability to run on any network, GSM or CDMA. This means they can technically be unlocked for use on any network and the need for a shared database across all carriers is quickly becoming a much needed system to deter theft.
The database won't help to curb all kinds of theft, however:
The CTIA's warning highlights the key driving factors behind smartphone theft. Some steal devices to have the latest and greatest handset without needing to pay for it. Others steal devices to take sensitive data. The database initiative won't solve the latter issue.
To solve the latter issue, smartphone users should always have services like iCloud or another comparable service configured on their devices in case they need to perform a remote wipe. Passcodes are also a good theft deterrent against thieves that are after personal information.