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AT&T to launch service to report and block stolen phones

The service would allow customers to block access to a phone or tablet while keeping their account intact.

AT&T plans to launch a service that will allow customers to report and block stolen mobile devices.

The service was initially reported by the Verge earlier today.

The service would let a customer block data, voice, and text message access to the phone or tablet but keep their account information in place, avoiding the hassle of creating a new account and SIM card.

It's part of a broader effort the national carriers agreed to in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission. In April, the carriers agreed to work together to compile and manage a database of stolen phones, preventing them from being reused.

An AT&T representative confirmed that the service, which will launch next week, is the first step in that initiative. The company said it is working on a cross-carrier service for later this year.

The database is a list of stolen devices that will be blocked out of future use. The hope is that thieves will be deterred from stealing a phone if it will inevitably become "bricked," eliminating its value for resale.

Customers can add a device to the list by calling customer service directly, and customers with remote-wipe capabilities will be asked to erase the device's content before it is blocked.

Security has become a bigger part of the carriers' focus, and in particular the protection of personal data. Carriers such as AT&T and Sprint Nextel have increasingly talked security as an additional feature.