Understanding IMEI: The comprehensive guide
The International Mobile Equipment Identity, popularly known as IMEI, is a unique number attributed to every mobile device worldwide. This number is of paramount importance, serving as an identifier for the phone, and holds significant value for both consumers and service providers.
What is an IMEI number?
The IMEI is a 15 to 17 digit number that is universally unique to each mobile device. It is often compared to the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of a car, as it serves a similar purpose. This number is used by the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network to identify valid devices. In simpler terms, the IMEI is the identity card of your mobile device, allowing service providers to confirm the device’s authenticity.
Where can I find my IMEI number?
Finding your IMEI number is relatively straightforward. Here are a few methods:
- Dial a USSD code
*#06#, and the IMEI number will appear on your screen.
- Check device settings
Navigate to ‘About Phone’ in your device settings.
- Look at physical hardware
The IMEI number is often printed on the back of the device or beneath the battery.
What is the purpose of an IMEI number?
IMEI numbers are used by mobile network operators (MNOs) to identify and verify a device when it tries to connect to their network. If the IMEI of the device matches an authorised identifier on the global IMEI database, then it will be permitted to traverse data over the network. If it doesn’t match an authorised identifier, then the device will not be granted permission to utilise the network. This is a very common occurrence when it comes to mobile phones as many handsets are locked to specific networks upon purchase.
Why is my IMEI number important?
The IMEI number plays a pivotal role in various situations:
- Theft or loss
If your phone is lost or stolen, the IMEI can be used to block the device from being used on any network.
- Warranty claims & repairs
Service providers use the IMEI to verify warranty claims and track repairs.
- Network compatibility
Certain networks may only support devices with specific IMEI ranges.
The structure of an IMEI number
IMEI numbers are made up of a 15-digit code. It can be split into the following sections…
- Reporting Body Identifier (RBI)
A 2-digit code that outlines the GSMA-approved group that allocated the TAC.
- Type Allocation Code (TAC)
6-digit code that outlines the model and origin of your device.
- A serial number (SN)
6-digit identifier that is unique to your device.
- Check digit (L)
This is generated by the Luhn algorithm.
Breaking down IMEI numbers
All IMEI numbers follow the same format:
35 (RBI) + 012345 (TAC) + 123456 (SN) + 0 (L)
In this example, your device’s IMEI number would be 350123451234560.