Millions of Mexican phones about to turn into bricks

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Thirty million Mexicans could find their cellphones dead this weekend, thanks to a new law that forces phone owners to register their identities.

The aim of the law is to stop criminals using their phones for extortion, for drug deals, or to negotiate ransoms in kidnapping. It was a spate of kidnappings in 2008 that led to the creation of the law.

But, unless the crime problem in Mexico is even worse than thought, an enormous number of innocent people look likely to be cut off.

The country's largest mobile operator, America Movil, is deeply miffed by the threat to its revenues - after all, its owner Carlos Slim, didn't get to the world's richest man by cutting off his clients. As a result, says Reuter, and has been pleading with sentators to extend the Saturday deadline.

Telefonica is simply thumbing its nose at the rule, apparently: "Telecommunications are of public interest, protected by the constitution... and they can not be denied to the population," it told Reuter.

Most handsets sold in the country are prepaid, and require no contract. But the government reckons it's licked the problem of people registering with false identities - apparently it intends to check every single applicant out.