Indonesia to Block Illegal Mobile Phones - A Move to Curb the Black Market

Indonesian government through the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Trade, and the Ministry of Communication and Information is preparing a policy in order to curb illegal mobile phone sales.

According to Indonesian Mobile Association (APSI) data, 20 percent mobile phones circulating in Indonesia come from black market. The Chairman of APSI, Hasan Aula, in on 9th July 2019, said that around 45 - 50 million mobile phones are being sold annually in Indonesia and 9 million of them are illegally marketed.

The total potential tax lost is around Rp2.8 trillion or about US$197 million per year due to black market activity. The Ministry of Finance cannot collect the Value Added Tax (VAT) with 10 % tariff and Income Tax with 2.5% tariff if the cellphones enter Indonesia illegally.

Batam port, one of the biggest port in Indonesia, is one of the gateways where smuggler use it to enter goods illegally, including mobile phones, to the country. Metro Jaya Police arrested four people, on 29th August 2019, suspected of smuggling cellphones of various brands from China to Jakarta. The smugglers shipped the goods from China to Singapore before entering Batam port, then distributed the the illegal devices to Jakarta.


The regulation, which will become the legal basis for blocking illegal cellphones, was supposed to be signed on 17th August 2019, in conjunction with Indonesia Independence Day, but apparently it was canceled.

According to the Director General of Resources and Equipment of Post and Information Technology (Dirjen SDPPI) Ministry of Communication and Information Ismail, in Liputan6, the plan faced set back due to the fact that regulation signing can not be done on holiday.

Indonesia to Block Black Market Mobile Phones
Indonesia to Block Illegal Mobile Phones. Illustration.

The same thing was also said by the Director of the Electronics and Telematics Industry Ministry of Industry (Kemenperin), Janu Suryanto, on 17th August 2019. He also added that system to support the blocking of illegal mobile phones is still being developed.

As of today, 2nd September 2019, the regulation still has not been signed. There is no certain date of when the signing will be done.

The Illegal Mobile Phone Blocking Mechanism

The system that will be used in order to block the illegal mobile phone is called the Device Identification, Registration, and Blocking System (DIRBS).

DIRBS is a system that was developed by Qualcomm which has the ability to identify, register and control cellular network access through the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers.

IMEI itself is a standardized international identity issued by the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA) consisting of 15 digits of a unique decimal number needed in order to identify communication devices connected to cellular mobile telecommunications networks. Indonesia Ministry of Industry is a member of GSMA association thus has access to the IMEI data base.

Basically, according to Kompas, the telecommunication providers will be required to capture their customers' IMEI data and match the data with Notification List, Exclusion Lists, and Black Lists from the National IMEI Database Information System periodically.

If the IMEI number is not registered in the National IMEI Database Information System because it has entered through an illegal channel, the device will be blocked by being unable to connect to the cellular network. 

Foreigners, such as tourists and officials, who are roaming in Indonesia's networks, are excluded. Imported cell phones and the ones bought from black market that have been connected to the network before the policy take effect will not be blocked too, however the owner will still have to register their device IMEI to Ministy of Industry database.

Currently, you can check whether your mobile phone has been registered in Ministry of Industy IMEI database through The IMEI numbers can be seen by dialing *#06# from the device or from the box that came with the device when you bought it.

Read also the article about riot that happened recently in Papua due to anti-racism protest which turned violent.