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Electronic serial numbers (ESNs) were created by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to uniquely identify mobile devices, from the days of AMPS in the United States starting in the early 1980s. The administrative role was taken over by the Telecommunications Industry Association in 1997 and is still maintained by them. ESNs are currently mainly used with CDMA phones (and were previously used by AMPS and TDMA phones), compared to International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers used by all GSM phones.[1]

The first 8 bits of the ESN was originally the manufacturer code, leaving 24 bits for the manufacturer to assign up to 16,777,215 codes to mobiles. To allow more than 256 manufacturers to be identified the manufacturer code was extended to 14 bits, leaving 18 bits for the manufacturer to assign up to 262,144 codes. Manufacturer code 0x80 is reserved from assignment and is used instead as an 8-bit prefix for pseudo-ESNs (pESN). The remaining 24 bits are the least significant bits of the SHA-1 hash of a mobile equipment identifier (MEID). Pseudo-ESNs are not guaranteed to be unique (the MEID is the unique identifier if the phone has a pseudo-ESN).

ESNs are often represented as either 11-digit decimal numbers or 8 digit hexadecimal numbers. For the decimal format the first three digits are the decimal representation of the first 8 bits (between 000 and 255 inclusive) and the next 8 digits are derived from the remaining 24 bits and will be between 00000000 and 16777215 inclusive. The decimal format of pseudo ESNs will therefore begin with 128. The decimal format separately displays 8 bit manufacturer codes in the first 3 digits, but 14 bit codes are not displayed as separate digits. The hexadecimal format displays an ESN as 8 digits and also does not separately display 14 bit manufacturer codes which occupy 3.5 hexadecimal digits.

As ESNs have essentially run out, a new serial number format, MEID, was created by 3GPP2 and was first implemented by Verizon in 2006. MEIDs are 56 bits long, the same length as the IMEI and, in fact, MEID was created to be a superset of IMEI. The main difference between MEID and IMEI is that the MEID allows hexadecimal digits while IMEI allows only decimal digits – "IMEI shall consist of decimal digits (0 through 9) only".[2]

The last of the previously unused ESN codes were allocated in November 2008.[3] Applications for assignments were accepted until June 30, 2010 using reclaimed ESN codes, those previously assigned to AMPS or TDMA phones and therefore not present on CDMA2000 systems. Reclaimed codes have also been used for UIMID assignments. Codes are assigned according to industry guidelines.[4]

Although ESN assignments may still occur in the future based on applications received before June 30, 2010, there have not been any assignments made since December 31, 2010.


External links[edit]

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9 news items

Tue, 08 Apr 2014 20:00:00 -0700

Sprint managers say they know of other burglaries at a number of phone stores in Michigan over the past 8 months. Before buying a second hand phone, they suggest customers Google the electronic serial number to make sure it isn't stolen. SHARE 17 ...
Grand Haven Tribune
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:04:19 -0700

They look like young people but you can't tell." Sprint managers said they know of other burglaries at other phone stores in Michigan over the past eight months. Before buying a second-hand phone, they suggest customers Google the electronic serial ...
Lexology (registration)
Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:12:07 -0700

NGC Regulation 1.146 defines “prepaid access instrument” as “a card, code, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, personal identification number or similar device that allows patrons access to funds that have been paid in advance and ...
The Suburban Newspaper
Wed, 02 Apr 2014 10:26:15 -0700

To counter the spike in crime, Canada has implemented a cell phone blacklist, he said. Within hours after police enter your cell phone's electronic serial number (ESN) on the blacklist, carriers will block it from sending and receiving calls. “You can ...

BBC News

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 07:02:25 -0700

... virtually anywhere—in the back of a vehicle, for instance—and can be used over a targeted radius to collect hundreds of unique phone identifying codes, such as the International Mobile Subscriber Number (IMSI) and the Electronic Serial Number (ESM).
Financial Mirror
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 05:22:30 -0700

VeriTeQ's FDA cleared Q Inside Safety Technology acts as an electronic serial number in breast implants and other implantable and reusable medical devices to give physicians and patients access to a secure online database to retrieve device-specific ...
Chicago Sun-Times
Wed, 02 Apr 2014 09:04:09 -0700

The business must also record the "mobile equipment identifier, electronic serial number or international mobile station identity" of the device. All of that information would be turned over to the Police Department on a daily basis, the ordinance states.


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