When the user inserts the sim card and activates, can the cellular network provider detect what phone the user uses?

Like say Motorola Droid.

Or at least the phone is a smartphone or not?

  • They can track the IMEI number, from which the make model could possible be traced. Jan 5, 2016 at 11:38

2 Answers 2

  • In general terms, wireless operators capture three main kinds of information: information about the devices connected to the network, metadata about the packets of data that run through the network, and information about the content contained in the packets being downloaded or uploaded by the subscriber.

  • If they (carriers) wanted to, these engineers (network engineers ) could detect a single device entering a specific cell and identify the type of device it is, its operating system (if it’s a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop USB modem), its IP address, its bandwidth consumption, and even the apps it is running.

  • Wireless operators need to know about the devices on their network so that they can make assumptions about the sorts of content their customers are using and the amount of bandwidth they’ll need. For example, if the carrier knows that the smartphones it has detected typically have large screens, it can conclude that those devices will probably be consuming a relatively large amount of streaming video content, which requires a lot of bandwidth.

  • Similarly, carriers can detect smaller, less expensive phones that don’t run a real OS but do sport a full keyboard. The operator can deduce that these devices are specialized for social networking, which doesn't demand a lot of bandwidth but does require a lot of signaling in the network.

As revealed in the memo, mobile carriers capture a variety of data about you, including call detail records (who you called and when), text message details (who you texted and when), text message content, bill copies, payment history, and even which cell towers you use. Another category, called Subscriber Information, presumably tracks your name and all necessary contact details.

  • 1
    Of course. Shall do that Jan 5, 2016 at 12:13
  • 1
    This is speculative. There is no technical evidence in this answer that how they really get such kind of data, even if we assume they can get it. Consider explaining what Android allows the network provider to know about the device and how does it happen. Furthermore, know that the question IMO is Android-independent, and hence, off-topic.
    – Firelord
    Jan 5, 2016 at 13:31
  • Should i change my question to android specific? Jan 5, 2016 at 13:54
  • @Firelord.Thanks. addressed your concern partly
    – beeshyams
    Jan 5, 2016 at 13:59
  • @Siva-Dev-Wizard. Yes, it did not occur to me about being off topic. So try to edit the question to prevent closure on these grounds
    – beeshyams
    Jan 5, 2016 at 14:00

Short answer is Yes, they can. Here is how:

Network provider also accesses your phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), which is a number that's unique to every GSM handset (CDMA devices use something similar called an Electronic Serial number, or ESN). The IMEI identifies the phone to your carrier and it checks that the handset is valid to use. If the phone is locked to another carrier or if it's lost or stolen--your carrier can use the IMEI to "blacklist" a device--you won't be able to make calls.


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