Jail jammers corrupt mobile phone networks

Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan is highlighting the impact of mobile phone jammers in Bangalore - where they caused serious network disturbance - in her efforts to keep them out of Australian prisons.

India is one of the few countries to have deployed mobile phone jamming devices in prisons. Several other counties are trialling the devices which are currently illegal in Australia.

In a letter to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) of India said that a mobile phone network in Bangalore had experienced heavy disturbance which was traced to mobile phone jammers in Bangalore Central Jail.

Coonan said the government has always maintained that mobile phone jammers posed a serious risk to other communications, including emergency services.

"Despite this, state and territory governments have continued to push for the use of mobile phone jammers instead of investigating alternative measures," she said.

The ACA declared mobile phone jammers prohibited devices in 1999 under the Radio Communications Act (1992), making it an offence to operate, supply, or possess such a device.

Under pressure from state and territory governments pushing to be able to use the devices in prisons, the ACA issued a report in June last year which gave several reasons for the devices to remain illegal. See story: http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php?id=1628938448.

The report suggested several alternative technologies including handset disablers, micro-cells and Faraday cages which Coonan believes to be much better options for prisons than the jamming devices.

A spokesperson for Coonan said that the state and territory governments should be using the ACA services more in order to help them come up with better solutions than jammers to stop prisoners using mobile phones.

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