AT&T to prevent stolen phones from accessing its network

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said it will launch a service this week that will allow customers to block stolen phones from accessing the carrier's network. The program represents the first step in an industrywide effort to prevent the sale of stolen phones on the black market.

"As announced in April, AT&T is creating a stolen phone database to prevent devices reported stolen from accessing wireless networks," Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, told the New York Times. "We will install this availability for AT&T phones on our network and are working toward a cross-carrier solution later this year."

In April, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA--which represent 90 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers--announced plans to join with the FCC and police departments to create a national database of stolen phones. The carriers said at the time they would each build separate databases within the next six months, and that within 18 months those databases would be merged to form a national database. The goal is to disable phones once they are reported stolen, and to prevent stolen devices from being resold and then reconnected to a carrier's network.

There is significant impetus for such a program. According to the FCC, over the past year roughly one-third of robberies nationwide have involved the theft of a cellphone.

Already, a number of smartphone and technology vendors have launched services aimed at protecting customers' smartphone data. For example, via Apple's "Find iPhone" application, iPhone owners can remotely check the location of their stolen iPhones and then delete their personal information from those devices.

For more:
- see this New York Times article

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