The mobile phone industry is taking steps to make mobile phone theft less attractive to criminals by creating a charter promising to block at least 80% of phones within 48 hours of their being reported stolen or missing.

Last week it was reported that there has been an 8% rise in robberies in England and Wales, which the government blamed on an increase of muggings for electronic devices like phones and DAPs.

The scheme will use the phone's unique IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) to make it unusable within 48 hours of the theft being reported, something which currently isn't unlockable.

All five mobile phone networks in the UK signed the charter which was laid out by the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum, or MICAF.

Some stolen mobiles are exported abroad, in which case the steps laid out in the charter are useless, since it doesn't cover networks outside the UK.

"We are committed to doing all we can to reduce the number of phones being stolen in the UK, however the agreement does create an export market for stolen phones" said Jack Wraith, the MICAF chairman, to

"The charter clearly sets out the key steps the industry will take to help cut mobile phone theft further so as to ensure that people can continue to use their phones, safe in the knowledge that measures are in place that will make them worthless to thieves if they are stolen."

However older phones can still be unblocked once stolen, of which there are still about 30 million handsets in circulation in the UK. But then as Mr Wraith told Pocket-lint "who would want to steal an old phone?".