Six mobile phone manufacturers have pledged their support for a plan to prevent the reprogramming of stolen phones.
The move, announced at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, will reinforce the network operators' efforts to stop the stolen mobile phone trade.
Network operators will create an international register of stolen phones to block them from being used on any network, removing any economic incentive to steal and export them to another country.
Most phones on the market today can be reprogrammed with a new International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI).
"We identified that the register wouldn't work if phones could be reprogrammed," said Rob Conway, chief executive officer of the GSM Association, the trade body for operators of networks based on the GSM standard.
Phone manufacturers including Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic, Sagem, Siemens and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications have now agreed upon a number of measures for preventing that reprogramming.
The European Commissioner for Enterprise and the Information Society, Erkki Liikanen, welcomed the move.
"We should do everything possible to guarantee that you cannot steal a phone, that it doesn't have the same value in the end," Liikanen said.
While design changes to new phones will not prevent theft, they should go some way to reducing the problem, Conway said, adding, "It's not a foolproof solution. Hackers always try to get one step ahead of you."
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service